Iraqi military balked at fighting their own neighbors

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

BAGHDAD The U.S. Army wants to change the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps deployment policy, which stipulates that Iraqis serve in units based in their areas of residence, officials said. The policy, sought to encourage recruitment and reduce costs, was meant to guarantee that ICDC members could return to their homes after their shift.

But the policy backfired in April when ICDC troops refused to fight their neighbors in the revolt in central and southern Iraq. The exception was the 36th ICDC Battalion in Faluja north of Baghdad. The brigade deployed in that Sunni city performed well and was deemed by U.S. officials as a bright spot in the otherwise dismal performance of the ICDC.

Officials said that unlike other ICDC units, the battalion in Faluja was not comprised of local residents. Instead, the brigade contained Kurdish militia fighters from the north, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The ICDC was originally established to operate in their local areas, to sort of serve as a local guard, a local national militia focused on their particular area of operation," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of multinational coalition operations, said. "It may well be that in the after-action reviews, that there would be some merit in making the ICDC an organization that could operate anywhere within the country to provide internal security."

[On Thursday, at least 35 people were killed when a car bomb exploded at an Iraqi military recruitment center operated by the U.S. Army in Baghdad.

Most of the casualties were young Iraqis who had waited on line to apply for jobs in the nation's U.S.-financed military.]

The ICDC, with 37,500 members, has been responsible for combat and security patrols, support of infantry, crowd control, infrastructure protection and intelligence. ICDC units have also been authorized to clear highways of roadside bombs and prevent ambushes. The United States has nearly achieved its goal of building an ICDC force of 40,000.

Officials said about 50 percent of ICDC units have required reconstitution in wake of the revolt in April. So far, more than 200 Iraqi security officers have been arrested on charges of failing to carry out their duties.

"I don't know if a decision [on ICDC deployment] has been made on that, but it's little doubt that that's going to be one of the considerations as the campaign is reviewed of a potential way forward," Kimmitt said.

Officials said the U.S. Army has accelerated aid and training to the ICDC and other Iraqi security forces. Lt. Gen. Walter Sharp, the director for strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee on June 15 that U.S.-led multinational military personnel have made what he termed significant progress in recruiting, training and equipping Iraqi security forces.

Sharp said more than 225,000 Iraqi citizens have joined the Iraqi security forces. They included 90,000 serving in the Iraqi Police Service, 18,000 in the Department of Border Enforcement, 37,500 in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, 9,750 in the Iraqi armed forces and 74,000 in the Facilities Protection Service. He said the ICDC would be fully trained and equipped by September 2004.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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