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Iraqi Soldiers Afraid To Leave Their Base

excerpts from a report from ABC News of Australia. August 8, 2005

Members of the new Iraqi army, being trained by US troops in the safe confines of Taji military base, fear setting foot outside.

Taji, an old Iraqi military base just north-west of Baghdad, lies in the heartland of the Sunni-led insurgency against the new, Shiite-led Iraqi Government and its US backers.

"We're all afraid. I can't go outside the base wearing these military clothes," says Sergeant Abbas, listing colleagues who have fallen victim to relentless insurgent attacks in the dusty towns and highways north of Baghdad.

"We all know soldiers who notice people photographing them with mobile phones and being followed," says the Shiite Muslim from Amara in relatively calm southern Iraq. He does not give his full name for fear of reprisals.

Training the new Iraqi army is essential for US plans to bring troops home over the next year.

For the moment the 15,000 Iraqis at Taji are glad they rarely have to venture outside in military attire.

"I can feel them following me and I'm scared of that," said Lieutenant Colonel Bassam Ismail, speaking of the militants.

In an impromptu discussion about the state of the army, soldiers criticised the decision to dissolve the old army, taken by the US occupation authorities after they removed Saddam from power two years ago.

"There's no way to get the high-level officers back into the army now," said Ismail.

You have been reading excerpts from "Iraqi soldiers fear leaving training base" from ABC News of Australia. You can read the entire piece here: tinyurl.com/9f7pq. Thanks to abc.net.au. Real journalism is still alive in Australia.

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