Baghdad, 23 August 2004 (RFE/RL) -- A 50-strong North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) team is visiting Iraq to offer what it may need most: training for security officers to bring back law and order to the country.
The two-week visit comes at the request of the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. At the end of the visit, the group will draft reports to be submitted to NATO leaders on how the organization can help Iraq.
Lieutenant Colonel Petter Linqvist, the Norwegian spokesman of the group, tells RFE/RL the team has been in close coordination with Iraqi officials and U.S.-led military leaders of the Multi-National Force.
"We are here at the request of the Iraqi interim government. One of the first things we did when we came was to establish liaison contact with the Iraqi authorities and also coordinate with the Multi-National Force."
"We are here at the request of the Iraqi interim government. One of the first things we did when we came was to establish liaison contact with the Iraqi authorities and also coordinate with the Multi-National Force. So these are the two entities we are in close coordination with," Linqvist said.
"We have received a list of priorities from the Iraqi government, and we will keep on communicating with the Iraqi authorities, with the ministries, to make sure that we provide is what they need, not what we think they need," Linqvist said.
Linqvist says many questions about NATO's role remain unclear. These include how many members of the Iraqi security forces will need training and to what degree, and how many NATO soldiers will be based in Iraq and who will pay the bill. All these, he says, are decisions that need to be made by NATO leaders.
For now the Iraqis are glad to receive whatever help NATO can offer. After the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) took power in Iraq, several hundred Iraqi security men and women were sent to various countries for training, but Iraqi officials say more is needed.
The CPA initially dissolved Iraq's army and security organizations, but reinstated many of the old employees after widespread criticism here and in the United States.