Six NATO allies refuse to help the U.S. train Iraqi officers
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – At least six NATO allies are refusing to send military instructors to help the United States train Iraqi officers, another impediment in the Bush administration’s drive for support for its effort to pacify Iraq.
The six nations – Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg and Greece – had refused to contribute troops to the U.S.-led coalition that overthrew President Saddam Hussein and to the postwar campaign against insurgents.
The administration was hoping to forge a consensus on postwar peacemaking. The project to train Iraqi officers will not involve combat duties and is part of a broader security program.
A State Department official close to the dispute said Friday that all 26 NATO allies voted on Wednesday at alliance headquarters in Brussels for the training program and agreed to help fund it. However, at least six held out from playing any active role and refused to send officers to NATO staging areas in Norfolk, Va., and Mons, Belgium.
Still, the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that all NATO allies, including the holdouts, approved the plan by consensus and were committed to paying a share of the costs.
Meanwhile, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, Adam Ereli, said of the holdouts: “It’s a decision of the individual countries that does not undermine the importance or value of the overall mission.”
Hungary, which is withdrawing its troops from Iraq, will contribute a company to help protect the training officers, the official said. Fifteen other NATO countries will contribute trainers, protect troops, or both.
The United States will bear a large share of the costs and contribute a sizable percentage of the 400 officers and a protective force of about 1,200, the official said. An advance contingent of 60 to 65 officers will go to Baghdad in the four to six weeks to begin the training program.
While NATO long has played a postwar peacekeeping role in Afghanistan, disapproval lingers over the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq.
The decision to use NATO nations to train Iraqi officers is the first collective action on Iraq by the alliance, the official said. By contrast, the official said, NATO might increase its forces in Afghanistan.