Iraq to rework security force for terror fight
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq's interim prime minister announced a restructuring of the country's security forces Sunday, grouping all Iraqi troops under a central command whose chief duty is tackling insurgents plaguing the country.
Prime Minister Iyad Allawi also said his government was considering imposing martial law in Iraq's trouble spots to help police and paramilitaries bring order.
He made a plea for more international help in Iraq's guerrilla war, asking outside countries to send troops and donate military hardware to bolster Iraq's beleaguered forces.
"Until our forces are fully capable we will continue to need support from our friends," Allawi told reporters.
Allawi has made security his top priority, with violence persisting as his government prepares to take sovereignty from Iraq's American occupiers on June 30. On Sunday, a roadside bomb in Baghdad killed two Iraqi soldiers, and U.S. troops clashed with insurgents in the city of Samarra, north of the capital, where three days of fighting has killed 10 Iraqis.
The incoming government is considering an amnesty for Iraqi guerrillas who haven't taken direct roles in killings of U.S.-led occupation forces or Iraqis, Interior Minister Falah Hassan al-Naqib told reporters, offering few details.
The security plan announced by Allawi focused on a strengthening of the Iraqi military, bolstering its role in fighting the insurgency. U.S. administrators had envisaged the military as a small force, meant solely to deal with external threats rather than violence within Iraq's borders.
Allawi said the May 2003 decision by U.S. occupation chief L. Paul Bremer to disband the Iraqi army was a mistake.
The Iraqi army, once the largest and among the best-equipped in the Arab world, began a long decline after losing the 1991 Gulf War. The army all but disintegrated during the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, its barracks and weapons stores looted and tanks, planes and other hardware destroyed.
Now, Allawi intends to resurrect aspects of Iraq's former military, enlarging the overall army while creating police and paramilitary units focused on fighting terrorists and insurgents and controlling riots.
The paramilitary Iraqi Civil Defense Corps -- which U.S. administrators created as a force distinct from the military to battle insurgents -- would be redesigned as a national guard force and placed under army control, along with border guards and other independent units.
The country will also build an army special forces capacity and an Iraqi Intervention Force for counterinsurgency operations.
The chief duties of Iraq's fledgling air force, with just two small surveillance aircraft in its inventory, will be to monitor pipelines, electrical transmission lines and borders, Allawi said.
As a last resort, Allawi said he would send Iraq's army, meant to protect the country against foreign invasion, to fight the guerrillas.
"They are trying to destroy our country and we are not going to allow this," he said.
Allawi said his ministers are also discussing the imposition of emergency law in parts of Iraq. "We might impose some kind of martial law in some places if necessary in accordance with the law and in respect to the human rights and the international law," he said.
'Not so crazy about this'
Sen. Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed concern over the idea of martial law, saying Iraqi troops were not strong enough to enforce it and that U.S. forces could be dragged into doing so.
"I'm not so crazy about this," Biden, who met Allawi during a one-day visit to Iraq on Saturday, said on ABC's "This Week."
"A government should never lay down an order they can't enforce. I am positive that Allawi is not in a position to enforce such a law now, without the United States doing it," he said.
Biden urged NATO countries, particularly France and Germany, to help Iraq on security. Refusal to do would be "irresponsible," he said.
As part of the restructuring, Allawi announced creation of a ministerial-level national security committee, including among others the ministers of defense, interior, foreign affairs, justice, and finance. Allawi said he discussed the revamping with U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who is visiting Iraq this week.
Allawi also announced establishment of a Joint Operations Center, and regional and local security offices that will coordinate Iraqi military actions with the U.S.-led coalition.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, will retain overall control of Iraq's security, even after Iraqis regain sovereignty on June 30.
There is still little evidence of coordination between U.S. military and Iraqi forces, although both sides have agreed to consult each other before launching large operations.
More than a day after U.S. airstrikes on a suspected safe house in Fallujah killed at least 16, Allawi said he had little information on the attack.
"I don't have the full details," he said. "I am getting them."
The U.S. military said the airstrikes destroyed a hideout used by allies of Jordanian terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But a senior officer of the U.S.-backed Fallujah Brigade said there was no evidence foreigners used the building.
The prime minister said he welcomed U.S. strikes on "any terrorist forces" in Iraq, but that he had no say in the matter. He said he was informed of the impending airstrikes "a short time before the action took place."
"As you know, sovereignty is not yet transferred to the government of Iraq," Allawi said. "This pattern will change once sovereignty is transferred."
Allawi's comments at a news conference came amid a surge of bloody attacks intended to undermine his fledgling regime before the handover of power at the end of this month.
Many of the attacks have targeted police and other security services, who have been slowly taking over security tasks in the weeks before the transfer of sovereignty. One of the most vicious attacks occurred Thursday, when a car bomb exploded outside a military recruitment station, killing 35 and wounding 145.
More than 300 people have been killed in attacks on police stations and recruitment centers since September.