BAGHDAD ø The Iraqi Governing Council envisions the
departure of the U.S.-led military coalition during 2005.
Iraqi officials said the assessment was based on talks between the
IGC and United Nations special envoy for Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi. Brahimi has
been meeting prominent Iraqis to form a new interim government in June.
The departure was expected to begin with members of the military
coalition other than Britain and the United States. The officials said
London and Washington
would withdraw their troops in mid-2005.
Iraqi officials have been discussing the issue of a withdrawal of
foreign troops with senior U.S. and British officials. In London, an Iraqi
defense delegation held talks with British Defence Secretary Geoffrey Hoon, Middle East Newsline reported.
"In terms of time for the presence of the international forces to help
us establish security and stability, I think it will be a question of months
rather than years," Iraqi Defense Minister Ali Alawi said in London on May
25. "The multinational force, in as much as its presence is needed to
maintain security, will need to be replaced by indigenous forces, by Iraqi
The United States has stressed that foreign troops will remain in Iraq
in wake of the transfer of sovereignty to a new Iraqi interim government on
June 30. But the Bush administration has prepared for the withdrawal of
troops from major Iraqi cities.
For his part, Alawi said his government's goal was to ensure that Iraqi
forces replace the U.S.-led coalition within one
year. He said Baghdad retains a large number of officers and soldiers from
the military under the Saddam Hussein regime.
"The question now is training them and ensuring that they are properly
equipped and they are properly commanded," Alawi said. "It [would] be very
unusual, I believe, that we will not be able to install security in the
country within the next year. Beyond that period, I think, the level of
adequate security is going to be dependent at the rate at which we develop
our own capabilities inside Iraq, and this is what we working on."
Iraqi officials said that over the next six months police and security
forces would be equipped with advanced U.S. systems and receive additional
training to battle Shi'ite and Sunni insurgents. They said the Iraqi forces
would also be assisted by Shi'ite and Sunni militias whose leaders seek a
For his part, Hoon stressed that the government of Prime Minister Tony
Blair has not decided to increase its troop level in Iraq. The United States
was said to have asked London for another 3,000 soldiers to help stabilize
"The situation remains exactly as it was, and as I have set out on a
number of occasions recently," Hoon said. "We keep the requirement for troop
levels under constant review, we are in constant contact with our officer
commanding on the ground in southern Iraq, and obviously in the light of his
request, his judgement of the security situation, we will make appropriate
decisions. But we have not taken any decisions at this stage to send extra
troops to Iraq."