TASZAR, Hungary --- The U.S. military's current program to train Iraqi opposition volunteers has been suspended with the departure of the second group of Free Iraqi Forces in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The U.S. military will now focus on the utilization of Free Iraqi Forces already deployed to Southwest Asia, together with this newest group, in order to ensure their success in coordinating and providing humanitarian assistance in Iraq. The Training Task Force will soon begin efforts to re-deploy its U.S. Army instructors and support personnel to their home stations or to other U.S. military operations around the world.
"Our recent mission to train Free Iraqi Forces has been very successful," said Maj. Gen. David Barno, the Training Task Force commander. "Trained Iraqi opposition volunteers are already working in support of coalition forces and our second group of volunteers has just completed their training program and deployed to Southwest Asia in support of U.S. and coalition civil military operations. U.S Army civil affairs units currently operating in Southern Iraq have been extremely pleased with the contributions made by the Iraqi volunteers already deployed, and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next group." As General Barno added, "their knowledge of local areas inside Iraq, language skills and the training they received in Taszar in supporting humanitarian operations make them invaluable contributors to coalition efforts."
General Barno added that the Iraqi opposition volunteers who departed for the Gulf region about a month ago are already working in support of U.S. and coalition civil affairs units coordinating and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid at Umm Qasr, in southern Iraq. Free Iraqi Forces are also providing mission planning and interpreter assistance to aid displaced persons and deliver critical humanitarian relief stocks for Iraqi citizens in need.
"On behalf of the United States and all our coalition partners, I want to personally express our appreciation to the Hungarian government and military, as well as the people of Taszar's neighboring communities, for their support of the recent training program," said General Barno. "Their support of this critical mission reflects the long-standing friendship and cooperative relationship between Hungary and the U.S. Without Hungary's deep commitment, this important initial program could never have succeeded as rapidly as it has."
Free Iraqi Forces are playing a vital role in supporting U.S. and coalition civil affairs units to effectively and efficiently deliver critical humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people. For the Iraqi opposition volunteers already deployed to Southwest Asia, and for those who recently deployed, they are one step closer to realizing their dream of a free and democratic Iraq.
"I have been personally impressed that the Iraqi opposition volunteers who participated in the training program all demonstrated tremendous teamwork, cohesion and an unshakeable commitment to a free and democratic Iraq. Despite their diverse backgrounds - Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds from all parts of Iraq - they were inspired with a remarkable commitment to set aside differences in pursuit of a common goal - freedom for their homeland. They have great faith in the training they received here and in their ability to assist the coalition forces and the people of Iraq in their quest for a free and democratic nation," General Barno said.
Free Iraqi Forces will also support US and coalition forces in coordinating the transfer of humanitarian supplies to areas in Iraq where these supplies are needed most. As country experts on Iraq, the volunteers will help ensure that such supplies as blankets, water containers, shelter equipment, and essential medicines are effectively moved and distributed to locations within Iraq where populations are in need of assistance. Free Iraqi Forces support to coalition civil affairs operations also includes coordinating the movement of humanitarian rations to meet limited and temporary emergency food needs. "These highly committed and trained volunteers will be a major force multiplier for our coalition civil affairs units in Southwest Asia," said General Barno. "There is no question in my mind that their presence will save lives."