The top U.S. military officer, General Richard Myers, says the United States wants to train thousands more new Iraqi police, possibly at bases in central Europe.
Speaking after talks with Hungarian defense officials, General Myers said the United States wants to improve the security situation in Iraq by training more policemen and other armed forces.
"It is very important in Iraq that we continue to train more and more police and other folks as well," General Myers said. "There is an Iraqi civil defense core, an Iraqi infrastructure and protection services. There is a new Iraqi army. Right now they total 55,000 plus, Iraqis that have been trained in uniform. They are properly armed and in many cases they are working with coalition forces to provide security for that country. And we hope, and that number is programmed to grow quite large over time as the Iraqis take more and more responsibility."
General Myers says no decision has been made about where to train the new Iraqi forces, but the Hungarian Foreign Ministry has confirmed that American diplomats are looking into the possibility of using the Hungarian military base at Taszar.
U.S. forces used that base before the Iraq war to train Iraqi volunteers who acted as liaison assistants to American troops during the fighting. U.S. officials have said a total of 28,000 Iraqi police officers are to be trained, probably in Hungary and elsewhere in the region.
One of the reasons for the ongoing unrest in Iraq is the shortage of basic services, such as electricity and health care. The coalition has made restoring those services a top priority. But General Myers says basic infrastructure in Iraq was much worse than anyone had anticipated.
"It was very difficult to predict the deterioration of the infrastructure. When I visited Baghdad in May, right after major combat operations, I went to a hospital which was build in 1950," he said. "The hospital had no upgrades for 50 years, almost 50 years. Yet the palaces that we would see from place to place were very ostentatious. So obviously they were putting a lot of money in the things that did not help the Iraqi people." General Myers also repeated statements he made earlier this week that the United States is looking to reduce or eliminate its presence in several parts of the world, including the Balkans. The general says the large number of U.S. military operations around the world are stretching his resources.
"We are looking at how our forces are deployed worldwide, and there have been no decisions made on that topic yet," the general said. "But we are in the middle of discussions among ourselves in the U.S. internally." The United States has about 4,000 troops in the Balkans in a NATO-led force. General Myers visited some of them during this trip. There has been talk of replacing the NATO force with an all-European force.
General Myers also thanked Hungary for its support of the war on terrorism, including military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.