U.S. beefs up security on Iraq's borders with Iran, Syria

Monday, March 8, 2004

BAGHDAD The United States has allocated $60 million to improve border security for Iraq.

U.S. officials said the money would be spent on increasing Iraqi troop and police presence along the borders with Iran and Syria. They said funding would help procure vehicles and technology systems in an effort to halt infiltrators.

"There are 8,000 border police on duty today and more are on the way," Coalition Provisional Authority administrator Paul Bremer said. "We are adding hundreds of vehicles and doubling border police staffing in selected areas."

Officials acknowledged that Iraqi security forces have been poorly equipped, Middle East Newsline reported. They said police as well as the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps have experienced a shortage of vehicles and communications systems.

The extra funding came in wake of a U.S. assessment that much if not most of the major attacks in Iraq were conducted by foreign Muslim fighters.

Officials said suicide bombers employed in recent attacks have been mostly non-Iraqi nationals.

"It is increasingly apparent that a large part of this terrorism comes from outside the country," Bremer said.

On Thursday, Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid said Iraqi police and ICDC forces have been hurt by insufficient training and a shortage of equipment. Abizaid also cited poor coordination between forces and the lack of a clear chain of command.

In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Abizaid said Central Command intends to slow down the growth of the 200,000-member Iraqi security forces and focus on better training as well as the establishment of a command structure. He said an Iraqi military command structure would be operating by July, but he did not expect this command to be effective until early 2005.

Abizaid also said Central Command has doubled the number of Special Operations Forces to help prepare Iraqi units for deployment. He said the U.S. military has taken over responsibility from the Coalition Provisional Authority for training of Iraqi police.

Officials said the United States and its allies were training about 3,000 police and security officers a month, most of them in neighboring Jordan. They said Central Command has rejected a U.S. Army recommendation for a slowdown in the development of Iraqi's military to allow for greater efforts to train that nation's security forces.

Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, said Iraqi security forces would play a major role in halting the Sunni insurgency. Sanchez said the United States has trained and deployed more than 200,000 Iraqi security forces.

"Make no mistake, we will continue our offensive operations," he said. "This is our mission, and we will not walk away from it."

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