Taszar: US army is believed to be training up to 4,000 Iraqi opposition troops at this Hungarian air base.

Position:Current Affairs
 
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The US is putting together a force of Iraqi opposition fighters that will assist US forces during an invasion, and work to stabilise the country after `regime change', funded by a $92m Congress allocation under the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act.

In late December the Hungarian government agreed to allow the US army to train up to 4,000 Iraqi opposition personnel at Taszar airbase, starting in January 2003. Taszar, 100 miles south-west of the capital Budapest, is an unlikely location for such an exotic undertaking, consisting of a sleepy single main street lined with Lada and Trabant cars. But since 1996 the airbase has been a staging post for US troops in the Balkans, with a permanent US presence of 50 men.

According to Peter Matyuc, Hungarian Ministry of Defence spokesman, the training will involve `civil affairs' and small arms training for self-defence purposes only. The Pentagon is refusing to comment on the force, but a US official who declined to be named denied that broader military training would take place. Yet, according to Andrew Brooks, a military analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, the force is more military in character than the Hungarian and US authorities have so far admitted. He told The Middle East (TME): "There is a vague dividing line between a fighting force and a gendarmerie but their role will primarily be scouting." He foresees the...

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