BAGHDAD ø The U.S. military has tried to win support from Shi'ite
leaders to rebuild the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
U.S. officials said the military hopes that Shi'ite tribal leaders and
clerics will help recruit and even sponsor combatants for the ICDC. They
said this could rebuild confidence in the force following its
collapse during the Shi'ite revolt in April.
The model for the ICDC effort, officials said, would be the 36th
Battalion of the ICDC, based in Faluja, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the 36th Battalion
fought rather than fled from combat because they were largely recruited and
stationed by Kurdish groups in northern Iraq.
"So we found that the 36th Battalion model may have some utility, and we
have taken it because the 36th was ours as well, and we've taken it now down
to center-south," U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st
Armored Division, said on Tuesday.
"We've engaged with the political party
we've engaged with the tribal sheiks and the religious leaders. What we're
doing is we're going from consensus, to participation, to ownership. The
first time around we went from participation and tried to get to ownership.
We never did build consensus. We are now building consensus, and I think
you're going to find over time it will become a better model."
About half of the ICDC refused to fight and officials said about 10
percent defected to either Shi'ite or Sunni insurgency forces. As a result,
much of the Iraqi force requires reconstitution as well as new weapons and
Officials said the defection rate within the ICDC was highest in the
Shi'ite pilgrimage cities of Karbala and Najaf. They said the entire ICDC
battalion defected in Karbala and about 50 percent fled the fighting in
The new ICDC recruitment policy was meant to bring Shi'ite leaders into
the security process. In addition, officials said, Shi'ite clerics might
also decide to contribute members of Shi'ite militias to the ICDC.
In one case, Shi'ite leaders were asked to contribute 2,500
militia members to the police and ICDC in southern Iraq, officials said. The
largest Shi'ite militia is the Badr Army, operated by the Supreme Council
for the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq.
Officials said they would not discount allowing elements of the
Mahdi Army of Iranian-backed Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Sadr to help form
two ICDC battalions in Najaf. The Mahdi Army was said to comprise 600
"We have approached the stakeholders and given them numbers," Dempsey
said. "We've asked them to provide a certain number of young men by party,
by tribe, and they have about a week now to give us the numbers."
Officials said the reconstitution of the ICDC units would not require an
entire retraining process. They said recruits would undergo two week
training as part of an effort to restore the force in Iraqi cities by July.
"We're not building from zero," Dempsey said. "About 50
percent of the pre-existing force did stand tall
during the attacks of early April. So we're really building not from ground
zero but from about the second floor of this six- or seven-story building."
Officials said the ICDC would have to be provided with advanced military
equipment and greater firepower. They said many ICDC members fled from
battle because they had concluded that they were outmanned and outgunned by
"Some of them are not trained to be shock troops," Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld said. "And they end up against some terrorists with AK-47s
and our rocket- propelled grenades and then they say, 'Well, the heck with
that,' and they move away ø which is not stupid, it's smart. And yet, some
people report in the press as though they ran, or they didn't engage the
enemy or they wouldn't fight. Well, my goodness, why should they? If they
have uneven equipment and uneven numbers, they shouldn't have. They used