Iraq asking NATO to help equip its forces
MONS, Belgium — NATO countries are being asked to help equip Iraq’s new soldiers and security officers once the fledgling Iraqi government figures out what it will need to combat insurgents.
Marine Gen. James L. Jones, supreme allied commander in Europe, said Thursday that nations are being asked to contribute small arms, light-armored vehicles, rifles, grenades, vehicles and basic aircraft.
“We’re still in the initial stages,” he said.
“We’ll [coordinate contributions] for both NATO and non-NATO members,” Jones said. “Anybody who wishes to contribute equipment.”
Jones, speaking at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe, said the Iraqi government would ask for the specific assets it felt it needed to defeat the insurgents. So far, those insurgents have killed hundreds of Iraqi men who signed up, or tried to sign up, to become soldiers or police officers in the new government.
Once the government requests the weapons and equipment it needs, NATO will try to arrange the transaction.
The initial outfitting of the Iraqi army and police would likely consist of “basic war-fighting equipment,” Jones said. After the country gets back on its feet economically, NATO could then help coordinate sales and contributions to rebuild Iraq’s decimated air force and navy.
Jones said that NATO was concentrating on collecting weaponry used by former Soviet bloc countries, which was similar to the weapons used by Iraq’s army under former President Saddam Hussein.
“We are trying to give them the type of equipment they are most familiar with, because that obviously saves time,” Jones said.
“We are consulting with any number of nations that has that equipment. As we get into NATO [military] transformation, we believe we will have excess equipment, excess bases, excess manpower. And if we can get that excess equipment, and if we can somehow get it to the Iraqis, this will be good,” Jones said.
The way that the equipment will be collected, paid for and distributed, and the time line for arming Iraq’s soldiers and police, is still being worked out, Jones said.