U.S. officials plan to train as many as 30,000 Iraqis for police duty by flying them to an an old military base in Hungary, senior defense officials at the Pentagon told Fox News Monday.
Former New York City Police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik (search), who heads the Iraqi Interior Ministry, told The New York Times Monday such large-scale training is necessary because current Iraqi police academies are not big enough to train the amount of police needed.
"We want to turn Iraqi security over to the Iraqis," Kerik told the Times. "This is the only way to do it quickly."
However, the State Department on Monday denied that a plan to train officers in Hungary was in place and said that the U.S. is still seeking countries who will cooperate with a training program.
During an afternoon press conference, State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker said, "(W)e're always looking for ways to cooperate with other governments to promote stability in Iraq. And we are currently in discussions with several governments, including the government of Hungary, regarding police training for Iraqis."
The timetable for the beginning of the training regimen is unclear at this time, as there are preparations to be made in Hungary, and an airlift of significant proportions needs to be coordinated to get recruits to and from Eastern Europe.
The Times reported that Kerik said he hoped to begin training the first group of 1,500 officers in four months, and have 28,000 officers on the job within the next 18 months.
Pentagon senior officials told Fox News that they are focusing on the air traffic needed to accomplish this task, saying that establishing regularly running air routes to move so many people will be no small task.
One senior official told Fox News there were discussions as recently as last week with the government of Hungary on the issue, describing the proposal as presented by the United States to Hungary as a sort of 'thank you' for Hungary's support for Operation Iraqi Freedom (search).
The prospective Iraqi officers would train for eight weeks in Hungary with U.S. officials, the Times reported, and once back in Iraq, an additional four to six months training on site would be required.
Fox News' Ian Christopher McCaleb contributed to this report.