U.S. disbands Iraqi army unit
An Iraqi national guard unit has been disbanded after it refused to
military training academy overseen by US advisers, former members of
said on Saturday.
The soldiers, part of a 90-strong force that calls itself the Defence
Rutba, said they feared reprisals from locals if they were seen to have
cooperated with the Americans.
Iraqi units have previously fled the front line when ordered to fight
insurgents, but it is believed to be the first case of soldiers
attend training for fear of reprisals.
"We refused to go because we were afraid that when we came back to
would be killed," Taha Allawi, a former member of the unit, told Reuters.
Rutba is in the far west of Iraq, close to the border with Jordan.
"The people here would believe that we were cooperating with US forces
is a reason for anyone to be killed."
A US military official who oversees training said Iraqis who refused
courses could be dismissed, but said the decision rested with Iraq's
He said the unit in question was believed to be a former Iraqi
unit that was due to be integrated into the Iraqi army. Its members
to attend the Kirkush camp where Iraqi officers run courses overseen by US
"While coalition forces may have delivered the news, those decisions
are made by
the Ministry of Defence," said Lieutenant-Colonel Fred Wellman.
"The United States does not disband units or dismiss soldiers."
Iraq's Defence Ministry had no immediate comment.
Another former soldier in the force, Ahmed Dhahi, said the
two months ago when he said the US military first raised the idea of them
attending a training course.
"They told us we had no right to refuse, they said the duty of
soldiers was to
obey orders, but we said 'We are Iraqis, not Americans, we don't
from Americans'," he said.
"We did not want the locals to think that we were working with the
then threaten us."
Mr Dhahi said that once it became clear that the unit would not
attend, the US
military took away their weapons, uniforms and identification tags and
Rutba, on the main highway heading to Jordan, is a predominantly Sunni
with strong tribal allegiances. It has been the scene of occasional
over the past two years, including attacks on military convoys.
A member of Rutba's local council said the soldiers, who had been
salary of around $300 a month, were right to refuse to attend the course.
"The soldiers have all the right if they refuse to go because we
reason why they have taken this position," said Hamid Saleh al-Kubaisi.
"We have tried many times over the past two months to get the Americans to
change their order, but they have insisted that they must go. The
council has no
effect on anything because the Americans don't listen."
Lt-Col Wellman said the issue was more focused on the soldiers'
be integrated into the proper Iraqi army and potentially be deployed
parts of the country other than Rutba and the Anbar province
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