Hungary OKs U.S. plan to train Arabs at Taszár
December 20, 2002
Hungary has agreed to let the United States train some 3,000 Arabs, most likely Iraqi exiles, at Taszár Air Base to prepare for a potential war to terminate the reign of Saddam Hussein.
The plan would allow Arabs to train alongside U.S. forces for missions as translators or for other “civil-military liaison” roles.
Hungary agreed to the American request on Wednesday, according to a spokesman for its ministry of defense. Hungary demanded, however, that the Arabs would not be combatants, that they be confined to base while at Taszár and that none would deploy to Iraq directly from Hungary.
“There is no kind of combat training,” said Peter Matyuc, spokesman for Hungary’s ministry of defense. “They can only have handguns for self-protection, and nothing else.”
Matyuc called these requirements “very strong” and repeated several times the demand that no Arabs trained there would be stationed with combat units.
Hungary’s resistance to being linked directly with a U.S. attack on Iraq echoes fears it had during the Kosovo conflict. Many Hungarians worried that helping topple Slobodan Milosevic would invite attack by Serbia.
Matyuc declined to speculate on the exact nature of training or from where the Arabs would come, although he did say he expected them to arrive early next year.
Officials at U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, declined comment. Pentagon officials said no final decision had been made on training Iraqi exiles or other Arabs.
“To my knowledge, there’s been no final decision on Iraqi opposition force training,” said Army Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking, a Defense Department spokesman.
Another Pentagon spokesman said that even the location for such training is still up in the air.
Matyuc, however, confirmed that Hungary’s decision to allow training at Taszár followed a request from the United States, and that America agreed to all restrictions.
A senior leader of the Iraqi opposition to Saddam acknowledged that exiles would serve with U.S. troops.
“There is a plan for training, but where and when, I don’t know,” said Faisal Qaragholi, operations officer for the Iraqi National Congress, based in London. “But it would be a few thousand [Iraqis].”
A scientist who worked to develop nuclear weapons for Saddam before defecting to the United States in 1994, Khidhir Hamza, said he is certain that Iraqi exiles will fight as well as translate.