NATO approves Iraqi troop training
28 June 2004 , ISTANBUL - NATO leaders on Monday approved an Iraqi troop training mission hours after the surprise early handover of Iraqi sovereignty and also pledged 3,500 additional soldiers to expand its security operation in Afghanistan. A senior NATO official said all 26 NATO members, at a two-day summit in Istanbul, had agreed to assist Iraq's interim government in the training of security forces. But the official admitted details of the mission still needed to be hammered out. Papering over Allianc
28 June 2004
ISTANBUL - NATO leaders on Monday approved an Iraqi troop training mission hours after the surprise early handover of Iraqi sovereignty and also pledged 3,500 additional soldiers to expand its security operation in Afghanistan.
A senior NATO official said all 26 NATO members, at a two-day summit in Istanbul, had agreed to assist Iraq's interim government in the training of security forces.
But the official admitted details of the mission still needed to be hammered out.
Papering over Alliance divisions, NATO leaders fudged their decision by saying member states will not be required to send experts into Iraq. France and Germany, which opposed the Iraq war, have both vowed not to deploy their forces in the country.
"The agreement as reached allows for NATO countries to contribute to training inside or outside Iraq," the official said.
Asked if forces deployed in Iraq would operate under the NATO flag, the official said this had still not been decided.
The US-led coalition in Iraq handed over power to an interim Iraqi government Monday, two days earlier than planned, in an attempt to thwart insurgent violence planned for the run-up to 30 June.
Sixteen NATO member states already have troops in Iraq but the Alliance's collective role has thus far been limited to providing logistical support to the Polish military sector in the country.
But speaking ahead of the summit, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reaffirmed that Germany would not deploy military forces in Iraq.
Addressing reporters on the tarmac moments before his plane took off for Istanbul, Schroeder said he was convinced Germany's opposition to the US-led war to topple Saddam Hussein would not be an issue at the Istanbul summit.
"This not going to be like the Prague summit last time. This time it will not be a matter of who shakes hands with whom," he said of the icy relations between him and US President George W. Bush in the wake of Schroeder's outspoken opposition to the war.
"That is all water under the bridge," he said.
"This time I am confident there will be no big controversy," the chancellor said. "We are all agreed that international effort is necessary in the aftermath of the war and Germany has no reason to play down its contribution to those efforts, either in Iraq or in Afghanistan, where we have the largest non-US contingent on the ground."
He pointed out that Iraqi police officers have undergone training in Germany.
"And we are prepared to expand our efforts to train police and military personnel in Germany, so far as the Iraqis ask us to do so," Schroeder said.
"But it will be in Germany," he stressed. "There will not, and I stress that word, not be any German troops deployed in Iraq."
His remarks came after Bush pressed for a firm NATO commitment to helping the new transitional government in Iraq to take a firm foothold.
After months of uncertainty and dispute about what role NATO would play, and with just days before formal handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government, the United States and the European Union heads of state, meeting in Ireland, pledged their support Saturday for Iraq's new government, including the training of Iraqi security forces.
"I think the bitter differences of the war are over," said Bush after the meeting at Dromoland Castle. "There is a common goal to work together to help the Iraqi people realise the benefits of a free society".
Turning to Afghanistan, NATO leaders agreed Monday to increase the number of troops serving in its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to 10,000 from the present 6,500 in time for elections planned by late September or October.
Countries either redeploying their Afghan forces or sending fresh troops include Germany, Britain, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands.
At present, NATO's ISAF forces are based only in Kabul. NATO leaders agreed to create four additional "Provincial Reconstruction Teams" in northern Afghanistan on the model of a German civil-military mission in Kunduz.
Work is continuing on plans for a NATO supply base in Herat in western Afghanistan.
Alliance leaders also increased air force assets in Afghanistan including C-130 heavy airlift planes and attack helicopters.
"NATO is meeting its commitment to provide additional security," said the official.
ISAF operates separately from a further 20,000 mainly US troops in Afghanistan fighting Taliban remnants and al-Qaeda militants.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has been demanding a bigger NATO involvement in his country, will address summit leaders on Tuesday.
The NATO Istanbul summit is taking place amid massive security in the Alliance's only mainly Moslem state which also borders Iraq.
Turkey's biggest city has been all but closed down with 23,000 police and soldiers blanketing the metropole which straddles Europe and Asia.
Riot police clashed with about 2,000 protestors during the summit and used pepper spray and water cannon to break up a demonstration.
Security forces are on edge after a small bomb exploded on a city bus last week, killing 4 people and wounding at least 14.
In other matters, NATO leaders have:
- Declared an end of NATO's mission in Bosnia at the end of 2004 and hand over to a European Union force.
- Underlined that they are keeping troops in Kosovo given what a NATO official termed the "obviously too unstable" situation in the province.
- Offered a NATO dialogue on security and reform to Middle East states.
- Agreed moves to bolster the fight against terrorism including measures aimed at blocking use of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles against civilian aircraft.
Subject: German news