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Monday, June 23

U.S. to rebuild Iraqi army

By Christian Lowe | Marine Corps Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Iraqi army, gutted by American forces during three months of war and officially disbanded only weeks ago, soon will be rebuilt by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, officials said Monday.

The 12,000-man force will consist largely of Iraqi soldiers who served in ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime. Recruiting will begin throughout the country next week.

Walter Slocombe, the top CPA defense adviser, said the new Iraqi army would be closed to senior officers of the former army and that each potential recruit would be checked for affiliation to Saddam's Baath party.

"The force will be professional, nonpolitical, militarily effective and truly representative of the country," Slocombe said. "In the old army, many - perhaps most - were regarded as professionals serving Iraq, not the (Baath) party."

In mid-July, the CPA also will begin paying a monthly stipend to former Iraqi regular and Republican Guard army officers and long-serving enlisted personnel. Pension payments will also be made to retirees, widows, disabled veterans and former POWs. Members of the Special Republican Guard, internal security services or senior Baath party officials won't receive payments.

A one-time severance payment will be made to Iraqi army conscripts whose service obligation ended when the army was dissolved as well, Slocombe said.

The announcement comes on the heels of an incident last week in which U.S. soldiers fired on a crowd of members of the former Iraqi army protesting lack of wages and pension payments. Slocombe denied any connection between that and the formation of the new army and payment scheme, which officials said had been in the works since April.

Training of the Iraqi army will be managed by former U.S. Army Infantry School commander Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton and conducted by an as-yet-unnamed U.S.-based civilian contractor. The first light infantry-capable division is expected to be ready for action within one year, Slocombe said. Within two years, planners hope three divisions of 40,000 Iraqi soldiers, led by Iraqi officers, will be ready for duty.

The Iraqi army will be tasked with defending Iraq's borders, securing key transportation routes and military installations, and supporting coalition forces within the country.

"The (new Iraqi army) will not be the whole of the future Iraqi armed forces, but it is an important start towards the national armed forces of the new Iraq," Slocombe said. "The final decisions on the shape of the Iraqi armed forces, the national defense policy and the structure of the new Ministry of Defense will be for the Iraqi people to decide."