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GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — In an unprecedented move by the U.S. military to prepare top commanders for duty in Iraq, about a dozen high-ranking Iraqi officials recently spent nearly three weeks at this isolated base in Germany to help train American officers.

A group that included the commander of Iraq’s ground forces, its top police official and members of the ministries of interior and defense, the Iraqis were brought in to work with the Army’s V Corps as it trains to take control of Multinational Corps Iraq, said Bob Young, an International Operations Division officer for U.S. Army Europe.

Two smaller groups of Iraqi officials were also sent to U.S. bases to take part via satellite in the Germany-based exercises Urgent Victory and Unified Endeavor, back-to-back mission rehearsals for the corps that ended Tuesday, Young said.

Invited to advise American commanders on conditions on the ground in Iraq and offer tips for tweaking the training, the high-ranking Iraqis’ presence at an American training run is a first for both armies, Young said.

“[It’s the] first time we’ve ever had this early level of involvement,” he said. The last time an American group prepared to command MNC-I, he said, “there wasn’t an Iraqi security force.”

The unique collaboration allowed American and Iraqi commanders to meet face to face months ahead of V Corps’ deployment, and gave the two sides practice at working together, Young said.

For the Iraqi officers, the mission to Germany over the past several weeks had several overreaching aims, said Lt. Gen. Abdul Kadir, commander of Iraqi army ground forces.

The first goal was to establish contact with the incoming commanders and discuss how Iraqi forces have been working with the XVIII Airborne Corps, currently in command of MNC-I, Kadir said through an interpreter.

“We … have given them a clear picture of how we coordinate and how our relationship is right now with the XVIII Airborne Corps,” he said.

Kadir — who spent more than 30 years in the Iraqi army before the Americans’ arrival — also gave U.S. commanders a frank assessment of the Iraqi forces they will encounter when they arrive.

Though Kadir did not discuss the details of that assessment Tuesday, he said he prefers to measure the force piece by piece, rather than in sweeping generalities.

“The Iraqi army is not just personnel and weapons, it is actually different systems,” he said. Some of those systems are active and running smoothly, some are still in their infancy, he said. But even though there has been frustration and plodding progress in some areas, Kadir said, the Iraqi force is improving.

“We’re going in the right direction,” he said.

As to whether that progress will allow the U.S. to begin pulling troops out of Iraq as early as next spring, hinted at last week by Gen. George Casey, the ranking military commander in Baghdad, Kadir said, “Yes, I am in perfect agreement with him.”

“We’re not just there for show, we are actually working,” said Kadir, who, like the other Iraqi officials, requested his picture not be taken. “We will continue to fight terrorism and kill them until they are all gone.”

But besides building relationships with the incoming coalition commanders, Kadir said the Iraqi contingent benefited from viewing American training techniques and facilities.

“We learned from the newest technology and the [U.S.] capabilities, from the lowest private to the most senior general officer,” he said.


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