U.S. President George W. Bush has cleared the way for the start of a combat training program for several thousand members of the Iraqi opposition.
A senior defense official says no combat training has begun for members of the Iraqi opposition. But the official confirms President Bush has cleared the way for the new program by issuing a directive that authorizes the expenditure of $92 million for training.
Legislation known as the Iraqi Liberation Act that was approved in 1998 provided $97 million for opponents of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Of that amount, just $5 million has been allocated, and of that just a little less than $1 million has actually been spent.
That money has gone to training 140 Iraqi opposition members in a variety of military support fields, including medical care, supply management and communications.
Pentagon sources say the new program will for the first time stress basic combat skills and will cover a much larger number of Iraqis, between three and 5,000 opposition members, according to initial Pentagon estimates.
The sources say the goal will be to create forces that could assist the U.S. military in a possible attack on Iraq.
Congress has authorized President Bush to use force, if necessary, against Iraq in large measure because of U.S. concerns over the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.