Global Policy Forum

NATO Envoys Approve Iraq Military Training Plan

Daily Star
November 18, 2004

NATO allies on Wednesday approved detailed plans to send up to 300 military instructors backed by hundreds of guards and support staff to Iraq in an expansion of the alliance's military training program. The approval sets up a meeting of officers from the 26 allies next week at NATO's military headquarters in southern Belgium to muster troops for the mission, which would run a military academy outside Baghdad for Iraqi officers. Alliance commanders want to have the expanded mission up and running before the end of the year.

Military experts from all the allies already backed the program last week and ambassadors from the 26 nations cleared it without debate, officials said. NATO currently has nearly 70 staff in Iraq on its training mission, and has been drawing up plans to expand the operation since September. NATO's supreme commander in Europe, U.S. General James L. Jones, has said 16 of the 26 allies have agreed to participate in the operation which aims to train about 1,000 officers a year. In an interview carried this week in The Financial Times, he warned the decision of other allies not to send any soldiers could present problems as the alliance seeks to rotate its instructors.

Opponents of the Iraq war such as France, Germany and Belgium have said they will not send troops to Iraq, although they have offered to help with training Iraqi forces outside the country. NATO officials are particularly concerned that those countries will not allow officers assigned to alliance staff positions to participate in the mission. Separately, top military leaders from NATO countries met for the first time in Brussels Wednesday with their counterparts from seven mostly Mediterranean rim countries, including Israel, in talks marking a rapprochement by the Alliance with North African and Middle East states.

NATO leaders said fighting terrorism would be on the agenda, along with boosting military and defense exchanges. The seven countries - Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia - are part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's so-called Mediterranean Dialogue, a 10-year-old initiative to boost closer links that has never quite gotten off the ground. This was the first time chiefs of staff from the participating states had met. Contacts up to now have consisted mostly of limited political consultations. NATO foreign ministers, who meet in Brussels Dec. 9, have invited counterparts in the Mediterranean Dialogue states to meet the day before to discuss new forms of cooperation, a NATO spokesman said.

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