Members of the U.S.-trained Iraqi opposition are
helping coalition forces distribute food and find Iraqi workers for the
British and U.S. militaries.
U.S. officials said the 80 members of the so-called Free Iraqi Forces
have been deployed in southern Iraq and are helping in the distribution of
food and humanitarian aid. They said the Iraqi opposition members have
checked credentials of prospective local employees for the British and U.S.
militaries and served as translators for commanders.
Col. David Blackledge, commander of the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade,
said the Iraqi opposition force has been deployed in the area of Umm Qasr.
Blackledge, who heads the efforts of the Iraqi exiles, said the opposition
members have recruited local Iraqis to help transport and distribute food
and renew operations at the port.
"They've assisted us as we've gathered documents, particularly in the
port facility, because we've been working to get port workers back in
place," Blackledge said in a Pentagon briefing from Umm Qasr on Friday.
"And as those individuals have been rehired to work at the port, our Free
Iraqi Forces have helped verify that these are the actual individuals that
are documented as previous workers, they do have the skills necessary to
work at the port."
Blackledge said the Iraqi opposition force has helped win the
cooperation of residents of Umm Qasr. He termed their work as highly
Last week, the Pentagon terminated a program to train Iraqi opposition
members in Hungary. Officials said the plans for training up to 3,000 Iraqi
nationals were overtaken by the launch of the war in Iraq.