BAGHDAD ø The U.S. military plans to leave major Iraqi cities as
part of an effort to transfer security responsibility to the Iraqi Army and
U.S. officials said Central Command, responsible for U.S. troops in Iraq
and much of the Middle East, plans to construct bases outside of Iraqi
cities. The U.S. military presence inside the cities would be replaced by
Iraqi military and security forces.
The redeployment would begin in May 2004. The U.S. military has already
been constructing bases to accommodate tens of thousands of U.S. troops
outside of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
In Baghdad, the Iraqi police force numbers about 8,500 officers, Middle East Newsline reported. They
are joined by seven battalions of the Civil Defense Corps, launched on Aug.
Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, said
his unit will move to six camps on the perimeter of Baghdad. Dempsey said
facilities will serve as a substitute for 28 U.S. Army bases in the Iraqi
capital by the time
the 1st Cavalry Division replaces the 1st Armored Division in the second
quarter of 2004.
"They will be on the outside looking in," Dempsey said. "We were very
much on the inside looking out."
[On Thursday, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid escaped
injury when his convoy was attacked while entering an Iraqi Civil Defense
Corps battalion headquarters in Falujah. The convoy came under attack by
rocket-propelled grenades, but nobody was injured.]
Officials said the redeployment has been facilitated by the rapid growth
of Iraq's military, police and security forces. The total number of such
forces approaches 200,000 as thousands of police officers, security cadets
and troops are being trained monthly in both Iraq and Jordan.
Dempsey said the U.S. military will maintain a presence in Baghdad with
two base camps in the Green Zone. By May 1, the 1st Division presence will
be reduced from 28 to eight camps in the city, followed by another reduction
later this year.
"I believe the ICDC and the police are capable of handling the threat,
based on the way we've attacked it and defeated it over time," Dempsey said.
Officials said the number of police in Baghdad will increase to 10,000
in May 2004 and 19,000 in February 2005. ICDC forces now number 4,000 and
will increase to 6,000 by mid-2004.