Monday, December 11, 2006

Iraq’s President Harshly Criticizes U.S. Strategy

BAGHDAD, Dec. 10 — President Jalal Talabani said Sunday that the American program to train Iraq’s security forces had been a repeated failure and he denounced a plan to increase the number of American advisers working with the Iraqi Army, saying it would subvert the country’s sovereignty.

Mr. Talabani’s remarks, in an interview with Western news service reporters that was later summarized and distributed by his office, amounted to an extraordinarily harsh denunciation of a central American strategy in Iraq as well as a major recommendation of the report issued last week by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group in Washington. He is the highest ranking Iraqi official to criticize the report, adding to anger among Iraqi leaders who have disagreed with some of its recommendations.

American commanders have poured more than $12 billion into training and equipping Iraq’s security forces and have tied a withdrawal of American troops to success in these efforts. But Mr. Talabani ridiculed them. “What have they done so far in training the army and the police?” he said. “What they have done is move from failure to failure.”

Mr. Talabani, who is Kurdish, said the Iraq Study Group report offered some “dangerous” recommendations that he said were “an insult to the Iraqi people” in that they undermined the country’s ability to control its own army and police.

He did not offer specific criticisms of the American training program, except to blame the Americans for inadequately screening recruits to the Shiite-dominated police to ensure their loyalties to the state rather than to a sect.

American and some Iraqi officials say some Iraqi police and army units are more beholden to Shiite militias than to the government and have helped to drive the cycles of retributive violence by attacking Sunni Arabs. Some Iraqi officials have also said that Sunni Arab officers have abetted the Sunni-led insurgency.

The Americans, Mr. Talabani said, “gathered them from the street regardless of their loyalty to the new Iraq, their capacity, their ability. These mistakes would be repeated if the Iraqi Army would be under the control of foreign officers, and we would never accept it.”

The Iraq Study Group called for increasing the number of American trainers to as many as 20,000 from the current level of more than 4,000, in the hope that it would help Iraqi units move more quickly to assume full control of the nation’s security.

Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander in the Middle East, told Congress last month that he envisioned doubling the number of American trainers, but senior military officers now say they are planning to at least triple the number of trainers.

The shift has been endorsed in general terms by President Bush, and in recent weeks, commanders in Iraq have started moving hundreds of troops from their combat ranks to training teams.

American commanders have argued that expanding the training teams would allow trainers to work more closely with Iraqi soldiers and police. In addition, trainers would be able to watch more closely for sectarian biases and abuses.

But Mr. Talabani said the proliferation of American advisers threatened Iraqi control of the security forces.

“Assigning foreign officers in every unit of the Iraqi Army is a breach of Iraqi sovereignty,” he said, according to the translation issued by his office. “What will be left of this sovereignty if the Iraqi Army becomes a tool in the hands of foreign officers coming from outside?”

He added, “We want our hand to be free, not paralyzed, in fighting terror.”

Mr. Talabani’s remarks may be dismaying to the American leadership, which has regarded him as one of its more reliable and like-minded partners here.

Mr. Talabani’s attack on the Iraq Study Group report was wide-ranging and vociferous.

He criticized a recommendation for a law that would allow some former members of the outlawed Baath Party to return to government. The measure would reverse a “de-Baathification” process that has marginalized thousands of Sunni Arabs who worked in the Baathist government of Saddam Hussein.

He also said he supported a statement issued Thursday by Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan region, who objected to several elements of the report that could weaken Kurdish autonomy by delaying an opportunity for the Kurds to govern the contested oil city of Kirkuk, and by giving the central government control over all oil revenue.

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MR said...

Great post, thanks. Don't know if you've seen these two short videos from Iraq yet or not, but both show the US Military engaging in some very dubious actions. I have them up on my site at ..You have to wonder what these soldiers were thinking when videotaping this stuff...

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