Abizaid: more Muslim peacekeepers needed in Iraq
WASHINGTON - The top US military commander in Iraq told The New York Times he wants peacekeepers from Muslim countries, and a functioning Iraqi army, rather than more US troops in Iraq.
"We've got to get more of an Iraqi face on the security establishment," Central Command chief John Abizaid said, "and we need to have more international participation in the international coalition force."
Published Friday, his comments follow a growing realization in the United States that rebuilding Iraq is more difficult and costly than had been foreseen and that more US troops may be needed to improve all-round security there.
However Abizaid said he favors seeing more peacekeepers from countries like Turkey and Pakistan and accelerating the training of a new Iraqi army to counter the image of a US-dominated occupation.
"You can't underestimate the public perception both within Iraq and within the Arab world about the percentage of the force being so heavily American," he told the daily at his headquarters at Florida's Macdill Air Force Base.
He said both issues of international peacekeepers and rebuilding Iraqi security services would be discussed next week in Baghdad during a major strategy review by top US military and civilian officials.
The session, the daily said, would try to produce "a better coordinated long-term plan for rebuilding Iraq and ensuring its security."
"A campaign plan exists, but what we need to do is sharpen it up," Abizaid said. "There's a need for a synchronization of effort, not only by the United States, but the international community and coalition forces."
On the US idea of putting an UN-sponsored international peacekeeping force in Iraq as long as it remains under US command, Abizaid said the sticking points were more likely political rather than military.
"There are innovative ways of working the chain of command that are acceptable from a military point of view and a unity of command point of view," he added.
The US general said he would like to get a 40,000-soldier Iraqi army trained more rapidly than the planned two to three years, even if it was a less than perfect military body.
"Somewhere between the perfect army and the just-good-enough army is the right answer," he said.
An Iraqi security force would help establish ties with the Iraqi public and provide intelligence on loyalists of toppled leader Saddam Hussein, foreign fighters and terrorists, he said.
Abizaid said he would also like Turkey and Pakistan to lead a third foreign peacekeeping division in Iraq, in addition to the ones currently led by Britain and Poland.
He acknowledged, however, that Ankara and Islamabad face political constraints to fielding forces in Iraq.
"Both of these nations need to have their internal political constituents satisfied that they're playing a role as an instrument of the international community and not as a pawn of the United States," he said.
I saw there is a growing approval for the need to get the Iraqi Army (that we are paying to stay home) back on the field, less the Baath leadership, to help with peacekeeping. It was discussed on ABC quite a bit this morning.
A UN resolution and the UN authority over Iraq would clear the way so that we could see Muslim Peacekeepers there
But please no Turkish Peacekeepers in Northern Iraq
The liberals get killed, the hardliners get the power and there is noone who can enforce justice there at the moment - a badly prepared crusade ends in anarchy for the people and in a few Billion $ Profit for some companies :(
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