Commission stresses security in Iraq, calls for contractors

Monday, July 21, 2003

The United States has been urged to revise its force structure in Iraq and employ private contractors to secure vital facilities in the country.

A report by an independent commission sent to Iraq by the Defense Department has urged an effort to improve security in the Arab League state.

The report by the five-member panel said security is the perogative for progress in the reconstruction and stabilization of Iraq.

The recommendations for improving security in Iraq include a reassessment of the force composition and troop levels to immediately improve "street-level visibility of coalition troops" and contracting more "private security forces" at low-risk locations.

The United States has 148,000 troops in Iraq and allied forces have another 13,000 soldiers. The Pentagon-sponsored team spent 11 days in Iraq.

"If Iraqis do not see progress on delivering security, basic services, political involvement and economic activity, the security situation will likely worsen and U.S. efforts and credibility will falter," the report said.

Officials said the Pentagon plans to train a private Iraqi security force over the next year. The force will guard infrastructure sites, including bridges, buildings and oil pipelines.

The report, entitled "Iraq's Post-Conflict Reconstruction," was drafted by members from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. A key member of the commission, Frederick Barton, a senior CSIS adviser and a former United Nations deputy high commissioner for refugees, said the next 12 months in Iraqi reconstruction "will be decisive" and team members are "very worried about [security in] the next three months." "Security is the precondition for all progress," Barton told a news conference on Friday.

Defense Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith termed the report highly professional. He said the recommendations would be considered, but not necessarily adopted.

"Not everyone in the Pentagon or in the U.S. government agrees with every factual analysis or judgment or recommendation in the report," Feith said. "But it is a serious piece of work with lots of good observations and good ideas in it."

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