Iraqi Government Plans to Demobilize Illegal Militias
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2006 The Iraqi government has plans to demobilize all illegal militias, including radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s so-called “Mahdi Army,” the senior U.S. diplomat in Iraq said today.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “has agreed to getting rid of the militias,” U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.
Illegal militias that commit violence and murder need to be dealt with, Khalilzad said, noting the Iraqi government recognizes that fact.
Maliki wants to demobilize all the militias, including al-Sadr’s, Khalilzad said. Yet, he noted, U.S. officials don’t have direct contact with Sadr, although there is some interaction with some of Sadr’s representatives in the Iraqi Assembly.
Khalilzad said he believes that an integrated, political approach is the best way to try to convince militia leaders to disband their men and stack arms.
However, Maliki doesn’t rule out the use of force to coerce the militias to disband, Khalilzad said. “We will see what happens,” he added.
Khalilzad said he believes the Iraqi government is taking the right path in addressing the militia issue. Iraq’s prime minister is anxious for Iraqis to assume more security roles and responsibilities, to include dealing the problem of militias, the ambassador said.
Meanwhile, U.S., coalition and Iraqi security forces “are actively tracking, targeting, detaining people who are operating in death squads, and their leadership, who are breaking the law,” Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said.
When Iraq’s government zeroes in on the militia issue, then the Iraqi security forces will become the dominant security forces in the country, Casey predicted.
“I think it will happen,” he said.