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Nato countries unwilling to send troops to Baghdad

July 14, 2003


July 14, 2003

Several Nato countries say they would be unwilling to send troops to
Iraq, as senior Pentagon officials now estimate it would take a year to
put together one division of 12,000 Iraqi troops in the new national

France, Germany, and other countries in Nato said there was no adequate
United Nations mandate to legitimise their presence in Iraq. They also
insisted the US-led military alliance had to focus on making its new
mission in Afghanistan a success.

Nato next month takes over the 5,500-strong peacekeeping mission in
Kabul amid growing calls by the UN to have its mandate extended beyond
the capital to areas where insecurity is increasing and warlords are
regrouping. Senior Nato military officers said a wider mandate would
require many more thousands. “Those troops are simply not available,”
said one officer.

The reluctance by Nato members to send troops to Iraq has already been
fed back to the Pentagon, whose civilian and military leadership has
come under intense pressure from Congress to reduce the US burden in
lives and money by mustering broader international support for the war

Douglas Feith, the under-secretary for defence who has borne the brunt
of criticism that the US was inadequately prepared for postwar
operations, said a year was needed to build one Iraqi division for the

“It would be a happy circumstance if Nato were able to take over
responsibility for security in Iraq, but we are far from that stage at
present,” Mr Feith told the Center for Strategic and International
Studies last week.

Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, was given a grilling by the Senate
armed services committee last week. Senator Edward Kennedy said US
soldiers were “serving as policemen in what seems to be a shooting

Mr Rumsfeld was unable to say whether the US had requested that France
or Germany contribute to peacekeeping since the fall of Baghdad. “I have
no idea. I’d be happy to run around and try to find out the answer to
that,” he replied.

French and German officials confirmed that no request had been made.
Both countries would need a new UN resolution and a UN mandate to
participate. Dominique de Villepin, French foreign minister, also said
last week that the UN would have to be given the central role in forming
a new Iraqi government.

“The mandate is far too weak to send soldiers to Iraq,” said a German
official. He added Berlin was overstretched, with troops committed to
the Balkans and Afghanistan. France too is committed to the Balkans,
Ivory Coast, Congo – where it is heading a European Union-led
peacekeeping mission – and Afghanistan.

jamie carroll
wake debate

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