Sunday, August 31, 2003


But it seems we aren't too keen on the idea of arming and organizing a whole bunch of Iraqis into quasi-military groups.
Stung by Friday's deadly car bombing, American and Iraqi officials said Saturday that they are discussing the possibility of forming a large Iraqi paramilitary force to help stabilize the security situation in the country.

Iraqis involved in the talks said the force could consist of thousands of Iraqis already screened by the various political parties for prior affiliations with Saddam Hussein's government. Iraqi officials said such a militia could ultimately take control of Iraqi cities from American soldiers.

Some Iraqi leaders said a force of several thousand men, most of them with military experience, could be ready in little more than a month.

American officials acknowledged that discussions were under way but declined to talk about details. They suggested that for the talks to succeed, they would have to address American worries about unregulated, untrained bands of armed men operating under separate commands around the country.

Security details "should be unified, and they should be recognized as Iraqi security forces and not belonging to individual groups or parties," said Charles Heatley, a spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority here.

The fear among the Americans has long been that the militia groups, far from bringing order to Baghdad, would attack one another.

Plans for an Iraqi militia have been in the works to guard such things as power plants and troop convoys. But the Iraqis said the force under discussion could be much more ambitious. One difference being discussed, they said, is to deploy members to various parts of the country, instead of relying on local unregulated militias.

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