Army to stay in Iraq after power transfer
* US chief civil administrator says no room for militias in Iraq
BAGHDAD: American troops will stay in Iraq to help ensure stability even after power is transferred to Iraqis by the end of next June, according to US chief civil administrator Paul Bremer.
“The Iraqi government and the Governing Council and the transition government will express their desire that the coalition forces continue to help after July next year because the Iraqi security forces will not be ready by then,” Bremer told coalition run television channel Al-Iraqiya on Friday night.
“And I am sure that is what will happen,” he said. “At the moment we do not have agreement, but we have informed the Governing Council we intend to sign an agreement which allows coalition forces to continue to help Iraq to defend itself and to defend itself against former regime members after July 1.”
Negotiations on an agreement for US forces to remain in the country would begin in January, Bremer said according to the channel’s simultaneous voiceover Arabic translation.
“The transition government and coalition forces will reach an agreement and under this agreement the transition government will invite the coalition forces to help the Iraqi people in their war against their enemies and international terrorists.
“I am sure we will make this agreement before June next year.”
Bremer went on to say Iraqis wanted US forces to stay.
“If we look at the opinion polls published in Iraq we see very clearly that a majority, 95 percent of the Iraqi people, welcome the liberation of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam.
“A great majority of the Iraqi still welcomes the presence of the coalition force and its help to stabilise Iraq because of the dangers presented by some members of the former regime,” he said.
“I have consistently said since I arrived here that there is no place in the new Iraq” for militias, he said.
“Our definition of a militia is an organisation which is not national,” he said, according to the channel’s simultaneous Arabic translation. “The national organisations we have promised to construct are the new Iraqi army and the new Iraqi police force and the civil defence force. These are national organisations.
“We have welcomed the militias’ cooperation with the national authorities, but they cannot continue as militias. “Quite simply the presence of militias does not fit into the campaign of building an independent Iraq with an army and police,” Bremer said in an interview for a programme Conversation with the Press.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the new force would be composed of 750 to 850 fighters and initially work mainly around the capital.
Interim foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari backed the use of militiamen as Iraq wrestles with armed resistance to the US-led occupation.
Zebari hailed the idea of recruiting former members of militias, including those of his own Kurdistan Democratic Party, for a new counter-insurgency battalion to work with US Special Forces.
“I think this is a wise move,” he told CNN. “It has come too late, but it is better late than never,” he added, referring to the coalition’s rejection of the idea when it was first put forward by former exiled groups in late May. The minister said that he thought a “political force” of reliably anti-Saddam fighters could help play a vital role in stemming the violence hitting coalition soldiers, Iraqi civilians and economic infrastructure.
“There is a great deal of resources that the political organizations can provide to help... whether from the Kurdish peshmergas (rebel fighters) or other opposition groups,” he said.
The daily cited Iraqi officials as saying that the new force was a “done deal” although later the same day coalition spokesman Dan Senor insisted discussions were still going on with the interim leadership, suggesting militia elements would form a special counter-insurgency group within the civil defence force.
Apart from the KDP, three other pro-US factions are expected to contribute militiamen to the new force - the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Iraqi National Congress and the Iraqi National Accord. —AFP