U.S. reequipping Iraqi units that surrendered during uprising

Thursday, May 6, 2004

The United States has set as its priority the reconstruction of Iraq's military and security forces.

U.S. military officials said numerous Iraqi battalions would have to undergo reconstitution and reconstruction over the next few months. The officials said these Iraqi units fled coalition battles against Sunni and Shi'ite insurgents in central and southern Iraq in April. They said that in many cases the Iraqi officers handed over their weapons to the insurgents.

The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps would undergo the biggest change under the reconstitution effort. Officials said U.S. Central Command has determined that four ICDC battalions in the Faluja area and one in the Baghdad area would require reconstitution after most of the troops either defected or in some cases joined the insurgents.

The process of reconstitution, officials said, would include the reorganization of the ICDC units, retraining and the restoration of equipment, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said some of these units have been virtually bereft of weapons and equipment.

"The security operations that took place during the month of April, a number of the units of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, a number of police units, and to a certain extent some Iraqi National Army units were unable to perform their missions," Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid, displaying a slide at a Pentagon briefing, said. "And you see the units in gray as being those units that are having to be reconstituted, retrained, and to a certain extent, reequipped."

Officials said the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force plans to establish the first battalion or between 600 and 1,100 soldiers of a new Iraqi brigade to restore and maintain order in Faluja. An Iraqi army officer will command the new force. The marines will equip and operate the Iraqi battalion.

In virtually every area of Iraq, the ICDC would undergo reconstitution, officials said. They cited units in Al Qaim, near the Syrian border, as well as Daqoq, Hilla, Hit, Samara and Tikrit.

In the north, officials said, an entire ICDC brigade was deemed as requiring reconstruction in wake of the April revolt. That brigade was located near Huwaiyiah.

Officials said ICDC units would also be expanded around such cities as Irbil, Najaf and Mahmudiya. They said the expansion of these units stemmed from the fighting in April.

The reconstitution of the ICDC and other Iraqi forces will take place under Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, former commander of the 101st Airborne Division, which left Iraq in March. Petraeus was authorized to establish a chain of command of experienced senior Iraqi officers who could enforce discipline and improve the capabilities of the troops by September 2004.

Abizaid said an enhanced Iraqi military and security force would not be ready until at least November 2004. He said such a process could be delayed until February 2005 amid delays in weapons procurement and training.

"I think the most important lesson that we've learned from this is we must have reliable Iraqi leadership all the way from the national level down to the level of the lowest private in these organizations," Abizaid said. "The immediate military tasks are first and foremost the rebuilding of Iraqi security capacity."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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