Half of Iraqi forces refused to fight during uprising

Friday, April 23, 2004

BAGHDAD The U.S. has determined that nearly half of the more than 200,000 Iraqi security officers refused to fight in the battle against Sunni and Shi'ite insurgents in early April.

Ten percent actually worked against the U.S.

"About 50 percent of the security forces that we've built over the past year stood tall and stood firm," Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, said. "About 40 percent walked off the job because they were intimidated. And about 10 percent actually worked against us."

[On Thursday, the U.S. military expressed impatience with the refusal by residents of Faluja to surrender their heavy weapons, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials termed as junk the weapons so far relayed to authorities.]

The assessment exceeded claims of senior U.S. officials that only a small portion of Iraqi security forces actually disobeyed orders or joined the insurgents. U.S. military commanders warned that the Iraqi military and security forces must be reconstituted.

"We have to take a look at the Iraqi security forces and learn why they walked," Dempsey said.

Officials said Iraqi officers had been frightened by the prospect that they or their familes would be killed by Shi'ite or Sunni insurgents. They said the massive walkout was partly the result of a U.S. policy that allowed security officers to work near their homes.

Dempsey, in an video conference from Baghdad to the annual meeting of the Associated Press in the United States, said police, ICDC and military troops refused to fight their neighbors in cities around Iraq. He blamed the absence of a strong command structure for the failure to impose discipline on the troops.

A U.S. military report said those Iraqi security officers who joined the insurgents had been sent to infiltrate the police, military and ICDC. The report urged the military to improve its vetting process.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations, said the U.S. military and Coalition Provisional Authority were examining the return of senior Iraqi officers who served under the Saddam Hussein regime as part of a command structure for the Iraqi military and security forces. He said there were many senior officers who did not participate in atrocities under the Saddam regime.

"As we continue to grow the Iraqi armed forces from more than just squads and platoons and companies and battalions that need lieutenant colonels, captains and majors, as the organization gets bigger, as the Ministry of Defense is fleshed out, as the Iraqi armed forces Joint Forces Headquarters is established, there is going to be a need for high-ranking officers," Kimmitt said. "You're going to need generals, you're going to need full colonels, you're going to need senior officers to command and control those organizations. Obviously, that is not a skill level that you can get in a series of weeks."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts

Search Worldwide Web Search WorldTribune.com Search WorldTrib Archives