BAGHDAD (AFP) Jan 31, 2004
A plethora of Iraqi security forces outnumber US-led coalition troops, but it will be years before they can maintain law and order in this beleaguered country, coalition officials have said.
“Right now in Iraq, there are more Iraqis providing security than there are coalition forces here,” US overseer Paul Bremer said in a statement Saturday.
“Like thousands of other Iraqis, these officers have taken a visible step forward to securing the people and the future of the new Iraq,” he added, as almost 500 new Iraqi police officers graduated in Jordan.
While the coalition maintains up to 150,000 troops in Iraq, the combined strength of the Iraqi police, border guards, civil defence corps and protection service is 193,000, coalition spokesman Shane Wolfe said.
According to the interior ministry, there are 67,000 police officers, 9,000 border guards, 19,000 Iraqi Civil Defence Corps personnel, 40,000 men of the Facility Protection Service (FPS) and 1,800 Iraqi soldiers.
Add to this inventory the 57,000 FPS guards that Wolfe said were employed separately by the coalition, and “the number of Iraqis working for security forces (is) about 193,000,” he told AFP.
The FPS receives only minimal training and is poorly armed.
It later emerged Saturday that Iraq’s once powerful defence ministry, a body which will control the country’s armed forces once Baghdad regains sovereignty, will be resurrected shortly.
Adnan Pachachi, the outgoing president of the US-installed interim Governing Council, said the groundwork has been laid for setting up the ministry and appointing a minister.
The defence portfolio is the last to be created in Iraq’s interim government with the massive armed forces of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein formally disbanded in May by US overseer Paul Bremer.
Pachachi said the army, scheduled to number 40,000 men by September, would answer to an Iraqi government, while current responsibility of defence lies with coalition troops.
Nevertheless, Bremer stressed Tuesday that without an ongoing US military presence in Iraq, insurgents could gain the upper hand.
“Iraq will not be capable of meeting the security threat they are likely to face in July without continued assistance from other countries,” Bremer told reporters at Camp Claiborne, near the northern city of Mosul.
He added that there was no deadline for the full withdrawal of US troops, despite the abilities of the ICDC and other forces.
“I do not think it is a very wise thing to try to put a time line. That has to be driven by the conditions on the ground. There are two things, how big is the threat, and how capable are the Iraqis of meeting the threat.”
On January 21, US Major General Paul Eaton said it would take a minimum of three to five years to field an Iraqi force capable of defending the country against attack # and only if spending on pressing social needs were sacrificed.
Officials from the interim Iraqi government have repeatedly called for Iraqis to take a greater role in securing law and order.
But on January 26, interim interior minister Nuri Badran criticised the Iraqi police as “weak … in the face of the many threats confronting it,” and blamed “bad decisions” taken by the coalition for the current predicament.
He said the dissolution of the army “created political tensions that have fueled the deterioration of the security services” and “produced major mistakes”.
According to Badran, 300 police officers have been killed since Saddam was ousted in April.
Some 300 coalition soldiers have also died in attacks since President George W. Bush declared major combat over in Iraq on May 1.
Plans for the new Iraqi army of 40,000 men later this year, fall well short of Saddam’s standing army of around 350,000 soldiers.