Sweden pledges extra aid for war-torn Iraq

Sweden has earmarked 70 million kronor ($8.44 million) in bilateral aid to Iraq in the coming year, the Nordic country's development aid minister revealed on Monday.

Sweden pledges extra aid for war-torn Iraq
Smoke rises after an airstrike by the US led coalition against Isis in Ramadi, Iraq. Photo: AP Photo

The Minister for International Development Cooperation Isabella Lövin announced in a press release on Monday that Sweden's centre-left coalition government had decided to raise Sweden's humanitarian support from 60 to 70 million kronor in 2015. Another 30 million kronor set to be spent in 2016.

Sweden's former centre-right coalition, which was ousted in September's general election, voted in 2013 to phase out the bilateral support to Iraq after it classified it as a medium income country that could survive on its own.

But as the Middle Eastern country struggles to rebuild civil services in areas ravaged in armed conflict with Islamic extremist group Isis (also known as IS or the Islamic State) the current centre-left government has decided to instead increase support.

“Sweden has a strong commitment to and close contacts with Iraq. The government feels a responsibility to come to the aid of the population in this very serious situation, said Minister for International Development Cooperation Isabella Lövin.

The money is part of Sweden's wider humanitarian support to Iraq – a total of 203 million kronor in 2014 – which goes to UN groups as well as non-governmental organizations and includes food and work to improve the lives of Iraqi children.

Monday's announcement comes just weeks after Sweden pledged 1.5 billion kronor in humanitarian aid to Syria over the coming years.

Isis, which rules a swathe or territory in Iraq and Syria, is believed to be attracting growing numbers of foreign fighters. Up to 40 Swedes are currently estimated to have been killed while fighting alongside the terror organization, according to Sweden's security police Säpo.

In April Sweden announced it would send up to 120 troops to northern Iraq to train Iraqi and Kurdish fighters as part of the US-led coalition against Isis.

The Swedish forces are expected to be in place in June and will be under US command. No end-date for their participation has been announced.

The international coalition fighting Isis in northern Iraq includes Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Finland. It has been in place since August and has carried out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.