U.S. steps up training to establish Iraqi Defense Ministry

Monday, March 22, 2004

BAGHDAD The United States hopes to accelerate the process of establishing an Iraqi Defense Ministry.

U.S. officials said the Coalition Provisional Authority in cooperation with the U.S. Army has been recruiting Iraqis to staff the upper echelon of an Iraqi Defense Ministry. They said recruits are being trained in management, weapons procurement, budgeting and other requirements for operating such a ministry.

"They tried to attack the dignity of our nation," Abdul Aziz Rentisi, "We are in the process of identifying some of the initial members that will work in that ministry," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said. "And there is some training going on to ensure that the individuals that are appointed to that ministry are in fact capable of accomplishing their tasks."

Officials said the Defense Ministry has been saved for the last component of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi government. They said the ministry will for the first time provide civilian oversight over an Iraqi military.

The defense minister, officials said, will be a civilian. Under Saddam and previous regimes, the defense minister was always a general. Sanchez said the CPA hopes to establish the Defense Ministry before July 1. He said the new Iraqi Army will be completed in September 2004 with the training of 27 battalions.

Officials said a target date for the ministry is April 15.

Other officials said the CPA has been focused on developing the new Interior Ministry, responsible for police and security forces in Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. The ministry is meant to oversee the training and equipping of police and other security forces.

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