Nepali Cabinet Decides to Deploy Troops to Iraq

The Nepalese mounted guards on parade

With its vast and rich experience in UN Peace keeping operations, the Nepali Government has decided to deploy its Army in Iraq under the command of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).

A Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 1st June 2011 mace the decision to deploy Nepalese troops to the country. “The government has endorsed the proposal for deployment of Nepali troops in Iraq,” said Minister for Education Ganga Lal Tuladhar.

According to the statement, some 170 Nepal Army personnel will be deployed in a peacekeeping unit in Iraq under UNAMI command. Nepal, which has currently deployed 4,355 peacekeepers (3487 soldiers, 814 police and 54 Military Experts on Missions as of 31st March 2011), is the sixth largest troop contributor among 114 nations of the UN peacekeeping operations.

The participation of the Nepalese Army in the UN peacekeeping operations spans a period of 52 years covering 35 UN Missions, in which over 76,000 personnel have participated. The Army’s long association with UN Peace Support Operations began with the deployment of five Military Observers in the Middle East (United Nations Observer Group in Lebanon) in 1958. To date, 57 personnel of the Nepalese Army have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty and 58 have been disabled, according to the Army.

Under the agreement with UN, the Nepali peacekeeping squad will be stationed in Basra, a port city situated 549 km southeast of Baghdad and Kirkuk. Soldiers will guard UN buildings and providing security to UN convoys in Basra and Kirkuk.

The Nepali government will supply necessary logistics, including arms and ammunition for the troops, while UNAMI will foot the bill of facilities such as accommodation and transportation costs. The government will now notify the UN Headquarters of the decision through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and formalise an agreement on the deployment.

Earlier this year, UN had sought the Nepali soldiers’ presence to protect UN buildings and staff at the Bagdhad based UNAMI. The Defence Ministry will deploy soldiers from its elite Ranger Battalion in Iraq.

The troops to be stationed in Basra and Kirkuk will be divided into two groups – around 50 will be involved in guarding UN installations and around 30 will be responsible for mobile duties in each of the locations.

Nepal Army’s experience in Iraq dates back to 1991 when a 50-member contingent was deployed for peacekeeping operations under the UN Guards Contingent Team. Four Nepali contingents completed their duties by the time the UN mission terminated in the mid-nineties.

After the successful history of operations, the Army felt the necessity for a training center to train army personnel about to be deployed. It has established a Peacekeeping training center in 1986 on an ad hoc basis to provide pre-mission training for the Nepalese Contingents taking part in Peacekeeping Operations.

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Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia. The capital and largest city is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabakis, Armenians, Mandaeans, Circassians, Sabians and Kawliya. Around 99% of the country’s 38 million citizens are Muslims, with small minorities of Christians, Yarsans, Yezidis and Mandeans also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

Iraq has a coastline measuring 58 km (36 miles) on the northern Persian Gulf and encompasses the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert. Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through Iraq and into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land. The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilisation.

Iraq is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 19 governorates, four of which make up the autonomous Kurdistan Region. Disputes over the sovereignty of Kurdistan Region continue.

Iraq is a founding member of the UN as well as of the Arab League, OIC, Non-Aligned Movement and the IMF.

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