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23 September 2004

NATO Agrees to Expand Training Mission in Iraq

United States praises alliance's decision

Washington -- The United States praises NATO for agreeing to expand its training mission in Iraq, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.

NATO ambassadors agreed September 22 to create a military training academy in Iraq, raising the number of trainers from 40 now to approximately 300, said Nicholas Burns, U.S. ambassador to NATO, in Brussels, Belgium.

"The U.S. is proud to undertake with its allies the expansion of the mission in Iraq," Burns said in a statement. He added that the United States will offer "considerable financial and other resources" to the training mission.

At a news briefing in Brussels, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said September 22 the additional trainers would not engage in combat operations, and that the mission will report to NATO but receive assistance from the Multinational Force-Iraq.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the expanded training mission will be launched as soon as possible to bolster Iraqi security forces, but he did not offer journalists a specific starting date.

The NATO training academy will train mid- to senior-ranking Iraqi officers, and NATO may offer additional training to Iraqi forces outside the country along with unspecified technical assistance.

The initial decision to offer training was agreed to by the 26-nation alliance in June, and the NATO Training Assistance Implementation Mission was created in Iraq July 30.

The mission also has helped Iraq develop its defense structure, in particular in the Ministry of Defense and Military Headquarters. It also plays a role in coordinating offers of equipment and training from individual NATO and partner countries.

The NATO academy will be under the command of U.S. Army Lieutenant General David Petraeus, who currently commands the existing training programs for Iraqi security forces.

"We are pleased that NATO has chosen U.S. General David Petraeus to command this mission," Ereli said. "This choice will provide unity of command and will ensure NATO avoids duplication and meets the Iraqi security forces' targeted needs."

Ereli said agreement on this mission implements a decision made at the recent NATO Istanbul Summit and demonstrates that the alliance is prepared to confront new challenges.

"The United States is proud to join with its allies in this decision, which includes the creation of a permanent training center at Ar Rustamiya to prepare mid-level and senior Iraqi security personnel to meet the challenges facing the new Iraq," Ereli said in a statement.

During a visit to NATO earlier in September, interim Iraqi President Sheikh Ghazi Al-Yawar welcomed NATO's assistance to Iraq, but said more support was needed to quell continued insurgent violence. He said during his visit that it was urgent to train and equip Iraqi security forces adequately, particularly as Iraq prepares for national elections in January 2005.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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