Sunday | July 20, 2003
US to create Iraqi force
By Steve Gilliard
Now the US wants to raise local battalions to help fight guerrillas
Initial U.S. plans call for raising about 10 battalions of about 350 Iraqis each in the coming weeks, a senior Central Command official said. Each battalion would be "sponsored" by a U.S. division or regiment, which would train the Iraqi recruits and operate in tandem with them.
Iraq's new 25-member Governing Council discussed the creation of an Iraqi civil defense force at meetings this week and broadly supported the concept, according to council members. The idea of forming such a force was advocated by former exiles. Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella organization of political groups that had opposed Hussein's government from exile, said it would help to meet demands from both Iraqi civilians and U.S. commanders to reduce the presence of American troops on the streets of Baghdad and other large cities.
Of course, the problem is that the people who sign up for the US-sponsored force will be serving the CPA without any larger purpose. The problem with funding Iraqi battalions is that the men you most want to serve, recently demobilized Shia conscripts and their officers, feel that they have already betrayed their country once by not fighting.
You might get people who want the money, but the idea of them taking orders from US units is a shaky one. Sadr's own army in planning may pay less, but certainly will have no stigma of serving the occupation. Make no mistake, the Iraqi soldiers will bear the brunt of the killing until they are forced to quit. The US can get recruits, but what are they really getting? Someone's militia in training? A bunch of thugs they can't control? A force to be undermined by Shia and Sunni clerics?
It's a far more desperate move than the Pentagon would admit and one fraught with risks. And given the barely concealed contempt most Americans show towards Iraqis, one primed to fail.Posted July 20, 2003 04:57 AM