US generals up pressure on Iraq over militias

US generals up pressure on Iraq over militias
September 27th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: US generals up pressure on Iraq over militias

US generals up pressure on Iraq over militias
Media: AFP
Byline: N/A
Date: 27 September 2006

BAGHDAD, Sept 27, 2006 (AFP) - US commanders in Iraq are worried about the
increasing power of illegal militias and are urging the embattled government
to do more to bring them under control, officers said Wednesday.

"We have to fix this militia issue. We can't have armed militias competing
with Iraqi security forces, but I also have to trust the prime minister to
decide when it is that we do that," said Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli.

Chiarelli, who commands the US-led coalition headquarters in Iraq and is the
second most senior American officer in the country, told reporters that his
force was working with Iraqi troops to restore order in Baghdad.

But some coalition leaders are worried that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
has been dragging his feet over plans to rein in powerful Shiite armed
factions with links to parties in his fragile coalition government.

"We are now at a time when we have a little bit of influence there. There is
going to come a time when, I would argue, we are going to have to force this
issue," a senior US military official said on condition of anonymity.

The annual Muslim holy month of Ramadan has once again been marked by an
upsurge in violence in a strife-torn country in which Iraqi and UN officials
estimate that more than 100 people are already killed every day.

Around 15,000 US troops are working alongside government forces in Baghdad,
which is in the grip of a dirty war between rival death squads and
insurgents, to quell sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shiite factions.

Eventually, however, the security plan will arrive in districts run by
Iraq's armed Shiite militias, which have open links to the main parties in
the coalition, despite Maliki's frequent promises to disarm them.

"There's a political piece to this, to see if they deal with these guys,"
another senior US commander told reporters at the weekend, again speaking
anonymously as a military official discussing political issues.

"There is corruption and problems in some of these ministries, but it's got
to be dealt with and it ought to be dealt with by the prime minister and the
folks that are inside this government," he added.

"I think the time is short for them to deal with that, over time, because
this can't go on like that," he said.

Maliki built a government of national unity by handing ministries to rival
factions from across Iraq's bitterly-divided religious and political groups.

Two of the largest Shiite parliamentary blocs, that of radical Shiite cleric
Moqtada al-Sadr and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq
(SCIRI), are linked to high-profile militias.

Sadr's Mahdi Army has often clashed with coalition forces in the past and US
commanders have accused some Shiite factions of links to the death squads
that roam Baghdad kidnapping, torturing and murdering their victims.

Pressure from Shiite gangs has also forced some Sunni communities to embrace
radical militants such as Al-Qaeda, which have stirred communal enmity with
dozens of bomb and attacks on civilians and Iraqi security forces.

But Maliki, who has vowed to quell the violence, has been cautious of moving
against armed groups from his own Shiite community and two months ago
bitterly criticised a US-led raid on a militia bastion.

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