US embassy cable - 03TEGUCIGALPA1724

STATUS OF HONDURAN TROOP DEPLOYMENT TO IRAQ

Identifier: 03TEGUCIGALPA1724
Wikileaks: View 03TEGUCIGALPA1724 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tegucigalpa
Created: 2003-07-22 19:26:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: MOPS MARR PREL PGOV SP PL HO
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TEGUCIGALPA 001724 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR PM, NEA, WHA, WHA/PPC, WHA/CEN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/22/2013 
TAGS: MOPS, MARR, PREL, PGOV, SP, PL, HO 
SUBJECT: STATUS OF HONDURAN TROOP DEPLOYMENT TO IRAQ 
 
REF: A. TEGUCIGALPA 1243 
     B. TEGUCIGALPA 1309 
     C. JUNE 15 INFO MEMO FROM DR. S. ZAKHEIM TO 
        SECRECTARY OF DEFENSE 
     D. STATE 207638(ALL NOTAL) 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Larry L. Palmer for Reasons 1.5 (B) and (D). 
 
1. (S) SUMMARY:  Training continues for the all volunteer 
Task Force Xatruch (TFX), the 370 soldier contingent Honduras 
plans to deploy to Iraq by mid-August.  The task force is 
composed of 35 officers and 335 enlisted soldiers. TFX will 
deploy as part of the Spanish Brigade in the Polish Division 
and will operate in the vicinity of An Najaf.  TFX will work 
side-by-side with local police to patrol this major smuggling 
zone.  This area has been pacified and the biggest expected 
threat TFX might face will be organized crime elements.  Task 
Force officers informed PolMilOff that the unit's training 
was nearing completion and moral was high.  Equipment and 
sustainment needs continue to be a major concern, that could 
delay the deployment of the Task Force.  Also, due to the 
fact that TFX will deploy through Kuwait, a Status of Forces 
Agreement (SOFA) with the Government of Kuwait must be 
completed before GOH forces enter the theater of operations. 
END SUMMARY 
 
------------------- 
Task Force Xatruch 
------------------- 
 
2. (S) Training continues for TFX, the 370 soldier contingent 
Honduras plans to deploy to Iraq mid-August.  The task force, 
composed of 35 officers and 335 enlisted soldiers, is 
comprised of volunteers from throughout the Honduran Armed 
Forces (HOAF).  TFX will deploy (with the other Central 
American forces) as part of the Spanish Brigade under the 
Polish Division and will operate in the vicinity of An Najaf. 
 TFX will work side-by-side with local police to patrol this 
major smuggling zone.  This area has been pacified and the 
biggest expected threat TFX might face will be organized 
crime elements.  The breakdown of TFX is: 
 
1 Command and Control Unit with 13 Officers and 7 Enlisted; 
1 Infantry Company with 5 Officers and 101 Enlisted; 
1 Infantry Company with 5 Officers and 100 Enlisted; 
1 Military Police Company with 5 Officers and 77 Enlisted; 
1 Support Company with 7 Officers and 40 Enlisted. 
 
3. (C) TFX is commanded by COL Carlos Andino Cobos who 
recently returned from a survey trip to the deployment zone 
in Iraq.  COL Andino reports that his biggest concern is the 
morale of his troops after arriving in Iraq.  Apparently, the 
deployment zone near An Najaf does not offer any type of 
diversion when units are off duty.  (Comment:  The Honduran 
contingency will be deploying without any means to provide 
rest and recreational activities for its troops; alcohol is 
also not permitted.  Also, a senior military officer 
expressed his concerns that the HOAF has not developed a 
mechanism for TFX soldiers to have even periodic telephone 
contact with their families back home during the deployment. 
The Hondurans will be quartered in housing vacated by 
departing U.S. Marine units with practically no conveniences 
left behind.  Boredom will surely be a problem and COL Andino 
fears that none of his soldiers will volunteer to stay past 
the planned six month deployment due to the significant 
hardships they will face.  End Comment) 
 
4. (SBU) The HOAF reports that of the 35 officers slated to 
deploy to Iraq, over half have served as part of the UN 
peacekeeping mission to the Sinai.  Also, for the first time, 
Honduras will deploy six women as part of its contribution to 
the international peacekeeping effort.  The primary mission 
of these women will be to function as interlocutors with the 
women of Iraq, thus respecting local customs. The planned 
deployment of TFX will be for six months.  HOAF officials 
have indicated a second volunteer task force will be readied 
to replace TFX at the end of the six month deployment. 
 
5. (SBU) On July 7 PolMilOff visited Honduran military base 
at Tamara to review the progress of TFX.  Base commanders and 
TFX officers all reported good progress and high moral, 
although one officer noted that the young age of many of the 
enlisted soldiers could potentially be problematic due to 
their inexperience.  Nine members of Joint Task Force Bravo 
(JTF-B) were also present as observers to verify that TFX 
members are able to complete the 33 assigned principal tasks 
(and the many subsets below them) necessary before the 
deployment can go forward.  JTF-B personnel reported good 
progress by the Honduran troops toward these goals. 
 
6. (SBU) While the training of TFX is proceeding on schedule, 
sustainment and equipment needs continue to be a challenge. 
TFX members still do not know exactly how they will deploy to 
Iraq or how their other logistical needs will be met.  Prior 
to any deployment, the GOH must also complete a SOFA 
agreement with the Government of Kuwait (ref D).  The GOH is 
working hard toward the completion of a SOFA in order to have 
the agreement in place before the end of July.  The current 
target date for the arrival of TFX to Iraq is sometime in 
mid-August with the stand-up of the force projected for 
September 1. 
 
-------------- 
Vetting of TFX 
-------------- 
 
7. (SBU) Post understands the necessity to vet TFX members 
for human rights abuses due to the fact that the unit will be 
receiving USG funding.  This process is moving forward and 
should be completed soon.  In the interim, the HOAF assured 
Post verbally that none of the members of TFX participated in 
the incident at the El Porvenir prison where 68 people were 
killed, many purportedly at the hands of GOH security forces 
(ref B). 
 
--------------------- 
Political Environment 
--------------------- 
 
8. (C) Honduras, under the leadership of President Maduro, 
was an early member of the Coalition of the Willing, and 
remains a supporter of the U.S. position on Iraq.  The HOAF 
is also interested in increasing its participation in 
international peacekeeping missions, although at this point 
without significant USG assistance this is not a foreseeable 
option.  While the deployment of TFX to Iraq has not 
generated much public debate, apart from the usual 
denunciations of the Bloque Popular (a coalition of leftist 
activists), if TFX were to sustain even minimal casualties, 
public opinion could turn rapidly against Honduran 
participation in the reconstruction of Iraq. 
 
9. (U) On July 16 the National Innovation and Unity Party 
(PINU), a minor opposition party in the national congress, 
announced it is planning to introduce a resolution to block 
the planned troop deployment due to concerns about the 
security situation in Iraq.  PINU members also pointed to the 
fact that U.S. forces have yet to discover any weapons of 
mass destruction, which they charge undermines the legitimacy 
of U.S. forces in Iraq.  However, their main fear remains the 
risk of Honduran casualties.  This effort, which has little 
chance of success, is politically inspired to further place 
responsibility for the troop deployment squarely on Maduro's 
Nationalist Party. 
 
10. (C) Comment:  The GOH is hoping for generous USG military 
assistance for its participation as a member of the Coalition 
of the Willing, one of the first countries to sign and ratify 
an Article 98 agreement, and as a nation willing to send its 
troops to Iraq.  HOAF officials are well aware that some of 
their neighbors receive FMF assistance and are looking for 
similar funding based on Honduras' overall support of the USG 
foreign policy objectives.  A high ranking GOH official 
privately questioned Honduras' knee-jerk support of U.S. 
international objectives, and if U.S. military assistance 
does not materialize, the critics may grow louder and wider 
among GOH officials. End Comment 
 
Palmer 

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