Hungary’s role in the stabilisation of Iraq
Based on a decision of Hungarian Parliament, Hungary first engaged in Iraq’s stabilisation in August 2003, after the crushing of the dictatorship in April 2003. It deployed a 300-strong battalion to Iraq – which worked as part of the Multi-National Force (MNF) – and served its mission until December 31, 2004. After the mandate expired, the Government of the Republic of Hungary decided by its own scope of authority, that in line with Hungary’s commitments to its allies, it would participate in the activities of NATO’s then newly established Training Mission in Iraq (NTM-I) until September 30, 2006.
The NTM-I’s aim is to contribute to the formation of a self-sufficient defence force which reports to the democratic Iraqi leadership. NATO forces stationed in Iraq are not assigned military tasks (although security tasks are undertaken by combat units). Securing the combat zone in a wider sense is the responsibility of the Multi-National Force (MNF); the direct protection of trainers and trainees as well as NATO facilities and personal safety are in NATO’s scope of responsibility.
The Iraq leadership greatly appreciates NATO’s participation in providing training and equipment for Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi Prime Minister asked the alliance in a letter in the autumn of 2006 to support the retraining of the Iraqi national police into a paramilitary police force (military police) through the expansion of the NTM-I. NATO responded positively to this request at its Riga summit in November 2006.
NATO is currently looking into ways in which to fulfill a request by Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki addressed to NATO’s General Secretary in January 2008 regarding the extension of the Iraq mission, as well as its enlargement. The alliance announced at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008 that the NTM-I mission would be extended until the end of 2009.
Hungary first participated with three field-grade officers in the activities of the NTM-I. As of July 25, 2007, it took over with 15 troops and for a period of six months leadership of the Military Advice and Liaison Team (MALT), which serves as a monitoring and “authenticating” unit in the training of Iraq forces. This mission has been extended for another six months until August 2008. It is an important token of Hungary’s commitment to NATO that it has parttaken in operations to a greater extent than its actual weight in the alliance would have required, since Hungary made the second largest contribution to the implementation of this mission. After this mission expires, Hungary will remain in Iraq with the original three-person crew.