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Improving security in Iraq varies among experts

Army News Service

Release Date: 9/30/2003

By Staff Sgt. Marcia Triggs

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 29, 2003) -- Unguarded borders and Iraqi extremists are the greatest challenges facing the American military in Iraq, a panel of experts concluded at the 2003 Eisenhower National Security Conference held Sept. 25-26.

However, each panelist who participated in the seminar on "Iraq: Political and Military Challenges" had different ideas on how to resolve the problem to get troops back to the States and the country back into the hands of the Iraqi people.

"Iraqis aren't ready to assume full responsibility of securing its borders and policing its streets, but there are areas where the Iraqi Governing Council should be in control," said Dr. Barham Salih, a native of Kurdistan, Iraq, and the regional administrator for the Kurdistan Regional Government in Sulaimania, Iraq.

"We Iraqis have a responsibility toward our own country, and we should be given that responsibility."

Salih, who was recently in his home country, said that life for most Iraqis is better than anyone predicted before the war, and that he doesn't agree with getting other foreign troops to aid the Iraqis, Americans and British who are already serving there.

To empower the Iraqis, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority must hand over as much as possible, the administration, the day-to-day policy making, planning powers, he said. Also there needs to be more Iraqi police on the street, and that can happen by speeding up the training of credible elements in the old Iraqi army, Salih said.

"I know it's an imperfect solution," Salih said, "but it's better than bringing in foreign troops."

Dr. Fareed Yasseen, an adviser to one of the Iraqi Governing Council members, shared the stage with Salih, but he didn't share all of his ideas.

"International countries need to re-invest in Iraq," Yasseen said. "Iran could help in promoting religious tourism, which is a serious source of revenue; Turkey could help restore Iraq's water rights; and neighboring countries should help by opening up open trade relationships."

Iraqis who favor a democratic society face the same dilemmas as Americans -- should there be an Iraqi democratic system at international standards or should there be an accelerated completion of the operation, said James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center.

"There's a debate in the United States on what needs to be done in Iraq. There's a recognition that security isn't improving at a substantially fast rate, but no one agrees on exactly more of what is needed," Dobbins said.

Some say more American troops. Some say more European and ally troops. The Pentagon and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld say more Iraqi troops are needed," Dobbins said. Looking at history, they're all right, he added.

"If you look at previous situations were you have conflicting societies that are facing internal strife and terrorism," Dobbins said, "a security force with about twenty men per one thousand inhabitants is needed. Those were the numbers used in both Kosovo and Bosnia."

Now there are about 30,000 Iraqi police officers, 40,000 border patrol, the Kurdish militia in the North, and including coalition forces there are still only about 250,000 security forces in Iraq, Dobbins said.

"Establishing security is going to be difficult. And it can't just focus on insurgents and terrorists," Dobbins said. "We can't win that campaign unless we secure the Iraqi people from thieves, rapists and murderers."

President George W. Bush said that one-fourth of the $20 billion that Congress approved for rebuilding Iraq in April will go toward security, said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. As the two-day conference came to an end in Washington, D.C., Armitage said in his closing remarks, "Now that we have saved Iraq, we will succeed at securing it."

The security situation in Iraq is going to get worse before it gets better, predicted Salih, who also insists that the quality of life for most Iraqis has dramatically improved.

"The stakes are very high. I'm not surprised that terrorists are pouring everything they have to ensure that we fail," Salih said. "If we succeed in turning Iraq into a democratic society, we will have changed the political discourse in the Middle East."

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