Shi'ites to dominate recruits, office corps in new Iraqi army

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Shi'ite Muslims are slated to comprise most of Iraq's new military, planned for completion in 2004.

U.S. officials said Shi'ites comprise 60 percent of the recruits chosen to serve in Iraq's new army. More than 1,000 recruits have begun training by the Vinnell Corp.

Vinnell is a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman.

The Iraqis, recruited in July from Baghdad, Basra and Mosul, will undergo nine weeks of training in such subjects as combat, human rights and hygiene, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said the United States wants to speed up the training and formation of the new Iraqi army. They said they hope to complete three divisions, or 40,000 troops, by September 2004. The original schedule called for this to take place in 2006.

The new Iraqi military will also have a largely Shi'ite officer corps, the officials said. They said that Sunnis, who represented the ruling minority under the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, will comprise 25 percent of the new military. Kurds will comprise 10 percent of the recruits.

The figures were disclosed during a U.S. tour of the training facility for the new Iraqi military recruits.

Officials said Vinnell has focused on training the first four battalions of the Iraqi military, planned for deployment in January 2004. About 60 percent of the recruits have military experience.

Once the course is completed, officials said, the Iraqi soldiers, promoted to the rank of private first class, will receive salaries of $70 a month. Those chosen to undergo officer training will receive $100 per month.

The decision to accelerate the formation of the Iraqi military, officials said, was taken at the U.S. Defense Department, which wants Iraqi troops to quickly take over many of the duties now assigned to American troops. Officials said the decision to expand the Iraqi army has been opposed by U.S. chief administrator Paul Bremer, who wants to focus on building the Iraqi police.

Each of the Iraqi military divisions will come under the auspices of the U.S. military. The first Iraqi light infantry division will come under the command of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, based in Tikrit.

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