Team of Czech surgeons head to Iraq to support coalition forces

Iraqi soldiers open fire towards Islamic State militant positions in Mosul, December 5, 2016, photo: CTK

An 18-strong team of Czech military doctors has been dispatched to support coalition efforts in Iraq. The team is being situated near the city of Mosul, where efforts continue to defeat Islamist extremists from ISIL.

Iraqi soldiers open fire towards Islamic State militant positions in Mosul,  December 5,  2016,  photo: CTK
The Battle of Mosul began back in mid-October. A major offensive by Iraqi troops, backed by international coalition forces, the aim is to liberate the city, which fell to ISIL back in the summer of 2014. Czech forces are not taking a direct part in fighting, but are offering various forms of ancillary support, such as training of Iraqi pilots. In a move approved by the government back in October, the country is now sending out a number of medical specialists to the combat zone. The group of 18 Czech surgeons is being situated at a US-run field hospital about 70 kilometers from Mosul.

Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant general Josef Bečvář, told Czech Television that the security of the team is a paramount concern, which means that the identities of the doctors will not be made public:

Josef Bečvář,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“The team will operate south of Mosul so as to remain in contact with coalition forces…The security of the medical team is the main priority. They will not be travelling outside the field hospital. That is one of the strict limitations to which our team there must adhere.”

Czech surgeons will be treating both Iraqi and coalition forces injured during the ongoing battle to liberate Mosul. One young Czech military doctor, who had already served on previous deployments, including in Afghanistan, spoke to Czech Television in anticipation of the deployment:

“We expect plenty of entry wounds, caused by shrapnel and projectiles…But the overall approach to patients remains the same. I’ve already seen a lot and hope that I won’t encounter anything too new and unexpected on this deployment. I believe that I am prepared.”

A group of civilians flee from Mosul,  December 2,  2016,  photo: CTK
The deployment is expected to last until next July. At that time, Czech military trainers are scheduled to begin a stint in Iraq. Meanwhile, reacting to a perceived need for greater flexibility, the Czech parliament is currently debating a constitutional amendment which would make it easier for the government to rapidly deploy soldiers to foreign missions in the case of emergencies. Presently, Czech combat or peace-keeping forces can only be deployed for a 60 day period without the approval of parliament.