Militias will disarm as Iraqi forces gain muscle

August 31st, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Militias will disarm as Iraqi forces gain muscle

Media: AFP
Byline: N/A
Date: 30 August 2006

BAGHDAD, Aug 30, 2006 (AFP) - Iraq's dreaded militias will lay down their
arms once local security forces gain the necessary strength to secure the
war-torn country, the US commander in Iraq told reporters Wednesday.

General George Casey said US forces would be able to hand over control of
Iraq to local security forces some time next year.

"I don't have a date, but I can see over the next 12 to 18 months, the Iraqi
security forces progressing to a point where they can take on the security
responsibilities for the country, with very little coalition support," he

This, rather than any direct confrontation with coalition forces, would be
the key to convincing Iraq's private political and religious armies to set
aside their weapons, he said.

"I think that when people begin to feel more confident in their security
forces, they will feel less need to rely on the militias," said Casey.

Iraq's militias, some of them linked to Shiite political parties in the
coalition government, offer a parallel security to that of government forces
in many districts of cities such as Baghdad.

But many have also been accused of operating death squads and of killing
Sunni Arabs in the ongoing sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis
that has left thousands dead in the past few months.

They have also clashed with government and coalition forces when they feel
their position has been threatened, most recently on Monday in Diwaniyah,
when fighting between the Iraqi army and Shiite militants left 81 people

"There are several things that need to happen for the militias to feel
comfortable that they can lay down their weapons," said Casey.

"The first of those, I think, is the improvements that we're seeing in Iraqi
security forces," he said, citing a recent joint US-Iraqi security operation
in Baghdad which US commanders believe has cut violence dramatically.

"And what you're seeing in Baghdad is these neighbourhoods are cleared, it's
the Iraqi security forces that will go in and hold the security in those
neighbourhoods," he said.

Casey further insisted that "terrorists and death squads" continue to be the
main threats to Iraq's security.

"Iraqi people aren't going to have the security they want until the Iraqi
security forces are the primary and dominant providers of security in the
country," he said.

"And that won't happen until all militias and insurgents are disbanded."

Casey supported the idea of a unarmed neighbourhood committees to defend
residents in cities.

"We think those committees can make a positive contribution, but we also
think that they should be unarmed and provide information and let the
security forces deal with the threats," Casey said.

Earlier this week the provincial council of the Shiite holy city of Najaf
voted to form such a committee.

Casey, meanwhile, hinted that Iraqi security forces would conduct an
offensive in the central city of Diwaniyah where massive street battles
broke out between Shiite militiamen and Iraqi soldiers on Sunday.

The two warring groups later agreed on a truce which was cancelled on
Wednesday by Defence Minister Abdel Qader Jassim Mohammed who said that 13
Iraqi soldiers were "executed" in cold blood after being captured.

Casey said the battle was not over.

"There is clearly an illegal armed force that is attempting to control areas
of Diwaniyah, and I believe the Iraqi division commander down there is going
to continue to work to restore Iraqi government control to that city," he

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