U.S. turns over untrained forces to interim government

Friday, June 25, 2004

The United States will hand over a largely-untrained Iraqi military and security force to the new interim government in Baghdad.

The U.S. Defense Department has produced its last report of the coalition reconstruction effort in Iraq, which details progress in the deployment and training of Iraqi military and security forces. The Pentagon report showed that a lion's share of police and military remain untrained.

On Thursday, more than 100 people were killed in a string of car bombings and attacks on police and other government facilities in Iraq. U.S. officials said Iraqi police fled their posts and bases in face of what they termed a coordinated military-style assault by Sunni insurgents in six cities. Al Qaida-aligned insurgency chief Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The report said the Iraqi Police Service consists of mostly untrained officers. Out of 86,944 officers employed in the police, 56,913 were untrained. The report was dated June 22 and was the last to be issued before the Coalition Provisional Authority formally hands over power to the Iraqi interim government on June 30.

Officials said the United States has recommended a major shakeup in the Iraqi police and security force by the interim government. They said U.S. officials have urged the firing of 30,000 Iraqi officers on grounds of either incompetence or failing to report for duty.

"You know, a lot of guys that didn't show up, so when they come back to work, we can say, 'Well, I'm sorry, you didn't stick with us during the fight," Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, head of the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq. "We probably shouldn't pay you for the month that you were absent."

Officials said the Defense Department and U.S. military envision a reduced U.S. combat role in Iraq after June 30. They said the U.S.-led coalition will increasingly focus on training, support and intelligence while pressing Iraqi security forces to take over patrols and other combat duties.

"Ultimately, it's going to be mainly with Iraqi forces," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said. "And the main subject of our discussions with [Prime Minister Iyad] Alawi was how we could accelerate and improve the plan to build the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police and a new institution which he's decided to create out of something that we started to call the Iraqi National Guard."

The Pentagon said the police have received 70 percent of their required weapons. Officials said that in May -- after nearly a year of bureaucratic and other delays -- the police and other Iraqi forces began receiving significant amounts of weapons and equipment.

"I'm absolutely certain now that the equipment is starting to flow in, t here are going to be much, much better police in Baghdad in six months," Wolfowitz said in a television interview. "But it doesn't happen overnight."

The Pentagon report said the Iraqi military has 7,116 soldiers on duty, with 2,638 in training. The Pentagon said the required force level for the military was 35,000.

The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps has sent 36,229 officers on duty, the report said. The ICDC was given a requirement for 41,088 troops.

The report did not cite the effort to restructure the ICDC to compensate for the thousands of officers who defected or refused to fight the Shi'ite insurgency in April 2004. The Pentagon said 1,561 ICDC cadets were being trained, but did not say how many of those officers already on duty received training.

Officials said the United States would continue to maintain a security role in Iraq in cooperation with the new government. They said joint Iraqi-U.S. patrols comprise more than 20 percent of coalition military activities.

"We'll have the authority that we need in order to conduct the operations that will be needed to maintain security in Iraq, but it's going to be done very much in a partnership with Iraq," Defense Department spokesman Lawrence di Rita said. "And the modalities of that, much like they are now, will have to be worked out as we move along."

The Department of Border Enforcement and the Facilities Protection Service were reported to have nearly reached their required force levels. But the report said only scores of members of either service had received training after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.

"The borders [force] need probably more and some better training," Metz, coalition commander in Iraq, said. "The Facilities Protection Service which was dissipated to the ministries, could take a good revamping."

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 Search WorldTrib Archives