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Iraqi Politician: U.S. Military Trainers Needed Along With NATO Instructors

Iraqi soldiers fire a Grad missile during training at the Basmaya military base in Baghdad in November.
BAGHDAD -- A senior Iraqi politician says American military trainers will still be needed by the Iraqi Army, despite a recent proposal from NATO for its instructors to train in Iraq, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Abbas al-Bayati, a member of the Iraqi parliament's Security and Defense Committee, told RFI on November 30 that a two-track approach has been adopted to train the Iraqi Army involving both NATO and U.S. instructors.

He said U.S. assistance in training the Iraqis is indispensable as some 80 percent of Iraq's new military equipment and weaponry has been purchased from the United States.

Bayati added that the first reading of legislation on an agreement with NATO has been completed and is expected to be approved by parliament. But he said it does not supplant the U.S. role as far as training is concerned.

Liqaa al-Yasin, a member of the Sadrist parliamentary bloc, told RFI that "three recommendations were presented to the Iraqi government in regard [to training], including one that foreign or specifically NATO instructors may be contracted to train the Iraqi Army so long as they are not American."

Mutaz Muhie, the director of the Iraqi Center for Security Studies, told RFI that NATO is playing an increasingly prominent role in the Arab region following its successful air campaign in Libya, which has prompted calls for a similar mission to be carried out in Syria, Iraq's neighbor to the west.

Muhie said NATO has a close working relationship with such countries as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which makes Iraq's desire to seek its expertise in military training understandable.

Baghdad-based political analyst Hassan al-Yasiri told RFI that the agreement with NATO will end the argument that a residual contingent of U.S. personnel to train the Iraqi Army after the withdrawal of U.S. troops by January implies a continuation of the U.S. military presence, which is opposed by many.