updated 11/4/2004 6:05:19 PM ET 2004-11-04T23:05:19

The first group of Iraqi security officials undergoing NATO training had to conceal their identities Thursday to avoid putting themselves or their families in danger when they returned home.

The 19 senior Iraqi officials are in the western Norwegian city of Stavanger this week for training at NATO’s elite Joint Warfare Center, part of a pilot project for possible follow-up training at the center and in Iraq. The ultimate aim is to help Iraq develop its own training capability, the alliance said.

Before they appeared at a news conference, NATO officials insisted that all cameras be turned off or covered up.

“We protect our identities because we want to serve our country without getting killed,” said the Iraqi delegation’s leader, whose name was withheld.

British army Maj. Gen. James Short said: “We do not want to put anyone in danger, or their families.”

Difficult task in Iraq
It is a fear that is well founded in Iraq, as local security forces and U.S.-led forces seek to restore order amid an active insurgency more than 17 months after coalition forces invaded Iraq and toppled President Saddam Hussein.

Insurgents routinely attack, kill and kidnap members of the security force and their families. About two weeks ago, 50 unarmed cadets were massacred on their way home on leave.

The senior Iraqi official said there were problems in coordinating security forces in parts of the country and in finding volunteers willing to stake their lives on building a safer Iraq.

“The creation of a security force is slow and getting slower,” the Iraqi said through an interpreter. “People are starting to lose confidence. The security situation is not stable”

He said recruitment was slow because people were afraid.

“We ask people to come,” he said. “People feel they are unprotected. But we do have people who join because they want to make it better.”

Crisis management, international cooperation
The eight-day course, which began Monday, includes instruction on crisis management that stresses the functions of an operational headquarters. It also covers cooperation between the military and civilian institutions such as the United Nations and the Red Cross.

Short said the course was intended to show how to set up and lead from a headquarters, rather than training in field operations.

Participants include Iraqis with both military and civilian experience. The senior leader — the only one who met the news media — said he could reveal nothing about his own background, other than that he had opposed Saddam and welcomed the coalition.

“NATO and Norway are helping us fight terrorism and increase security in Iraq,” he said.

Apart from the knowledge that he and other participants hope to take home and share, he said they were working with countries that were considered enemies under the old regime.

“The reaction [at home] was optimism about Iraqis going abroad for training,” the senior official said. “There was a door closed for 20 or 30 years that is now open.”

The NATO alliance is also working on plans for NATO to expand its training mission inside Iraq, which is limited to about 70 people in Baghdad.

Thousands of Iraqis have received police training in Jordan, part of a program to train 32,000 police by 2005 at the Jordan International Police Training Center.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments