ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Visiting Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced Monday his government will increase the number of military personnel in the Kurdistan Region from 35 to 70 advisors.
Lövfen arrived in Erbil late Monday evening after meeting with Iraqi top officials in Baghdad, where he pledged more support for the ongoing war against ISIS in the country.
“We will expand our efforts against Daesh (ISIS) because we consider it so important. Sweden plans on doubling the number of people from 35 to 70 and also to become more flexible geographically,” Löfven told reporters after his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in Baghdad.
Swedish advisors are based in the Kurdistan Region and have been training Kurdish Peshmerga forces since 2015.
In Erbil, Lövfen was greeted by his Kurdish counterpart Nechirvan Barzani at the airport, marking the first official visit by a serving Swedish premier to the Kurdistan Region.
"This was a planned part of the trip," Jonatan Holst, press secretary of the Swedish PM, told daily Aftonbladet, without giving further details due to "security reasons."
Lövfen travelled to Iraq directly from Saudi Arabia where he had meeting with the Saudi King Salman Bin Abdelaziz in Riyadh on Sunday.
The taskforce, which will need the formal approval of the Swedish parliament, will only be engaged in training missions inside the Kurdistan Region, where German and British military personnel have set up special training camps for Peshmerga forces.
Kurdish sources said the ongoing military operation to retake Mosul and the predicted refugee crisis will be on the agenda as Lövfen meets Kurdish President Masoud Barzani on Tuesday.
The Swedish support for the Kurdish struggle against the jihadists has so far been more humanitarian than military. Former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who visited refugee camps in Erbil in September 2014, said the Swedish aid agency (SIDA) will allocate the bulk of their budget for the coming years to help refugees in Iraq and Turkey with over 3 million refugees.
The serving Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Walström has said her country has comprehensive experience in humanitarian missions and that is why they had focused on relief efforts in Kurdistan.
Over 300 Swedes are presumed to have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS as foreign fighters, according to the director of the Swedish intelligence (SÄPO), Anders Thornberg, who earlier said that at least 100 Swedes are now confirmed to be ISIS recruits in the Middle East.