Beirut on the Tigris

December 2003
New Republic;12/22/2003, Vol. 229 Issue 25, p9
Afghanistan has no shortage of problems, but one international effort to improve security there--the decommissioning of private militias--is yielding results. The United Nations, with the support of the United States, recently launched a program to convince armed fighters loyal to Afghan warlords to hand in their weapons and get training for new, nonmilitary careers. Unfortunately, in Iraq, the Bush administration is doing exactly the opposite: In its desperation to hand security over to Iraqis before the 2004 election, the administration is considering creating armed militias. Last week, The Washington Post reported that occupation authorities are debating forming a militia unit comprising soldiers from several political parties represented on the U.S.-selected Iraqi Governing Council, including the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Iraqi National Accord (INA), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (sciri), and others. Already, many Iraqis understand that the militia would constitute a power grab by Iraqi Governing Council chieftains. Both Jalal Talabani and Ahmed Chalabi recently have been currying favor with decidedly undemocratic Iran. Sciri, another group represented on the Council, was sheltered and funded by Iran during Saddam Hussein's reign. Ayad Alawi, meanwhile, is a former Baathist, whose INA contains many former members of Saddam's security forces who defected in the early '90s. The creation of a militia with such conflicting loyalties could easily provoke widespread factional conflict.


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