Sovereignty Transfer Won't End Mission, House Panel Told
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 16, 2004 U.S. and coalition military responsibilities will not end with the June 30 transfer of power in Iraq, Defense Department officials told members of the House Armed Service Committee here today.
However, they also stated that U.S. troops would be pulled from the country if asked by the new sovereign government.
During hearings to discuss the status of U.S. forces in Iraq after the June 30 handover, Army Lt. Gen. Walter L. Sharp, Joint Staff director for strategic plans and policy, said multinational forces will remain in Iraq only at the invitation of the Iraqi people and with the authorization of the United Nations. The general added that the United States has the backing of Iraq's interim government and the United Nations for a security presence in the country.
He told the committee that Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's letter to the U.N. Security Council from the interim government formed the basis for authorizing the continued presence of the multinational force in the country. Sharp also cited the U.N. Security Council resolution passed unanimously earlier this month.
Resolution 1546 states that "the multinational force shall have the authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq," he said. "UNSCR 1546 further requires that arrangements are put in place to establish a security partnership between the sovereign government of Iraq and the multinational force and to ensure coordination between the two," he continued.
Peter W. Rodman, assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs, told the committee that U.S. troops will leave if asked by Iraq's new government.
"We would not stay if the Iraqi government asked us to leave," he said. "UNSCR 1546, in a preambular paragraph, recognizes the importance of the consent of the sovereign government of Iraq for the presence of the multinational force. The same applies to any U.S. troop presence." However, he added, the question of U.S. troops leaving Iraq has not been raised often by Iraqis.
"Right now as the categorical statements of Iraqi leaders make clear Iraqis are more interested in reassurance that we will stay," he said. "Although we obviously would not stay if the Iraqi people do not want us to, right now millions of Iraqis are afraid that we might leave prematurely."
Enemies of a free and sovereign Iraq are using that fear, he said. "It is a fear that the enemy plays on with posters and rumors and black propaganda, saying that the Americans will leave as they did before and hand the country back to the enemy who abused it for so long and its terrorist allies," Rodman said. "Therefore, we need to be careful in answering this question. We must send two strong messages to the Iraqi people at the same time: That we are committed to stay until Iraq is ready to defend itself, and that we are committed to leave, and will do so happily, as soon as that job is done."
But Rodman also stressed that any premature departure of international troops would lead to chaos and the "real possibility" of civil war.
"This would cause a humanitarian crisis and provide a foothold for terrorists to launch their evil campaign in our country and beyond our borders," he said. "The continued presence of the multinational force will help preserve Iraq's unity, prevent regional intervention in our affairs and protect our borders at this critical stage of our reconstruction."
In explaining the U.S. role, Sharp told the committee that U.S. forces, and "increasingly" Iraqi forces, will continue to conduct offensive operations to "defeat remaining anti-Iraqi forces and neutralize destabilizing influences in Iraq in order to create a secure environment in which the Iraqi people can build their own future."
Sharp said U.S. forces will continue current efforts to organize, train, equip, mentor, and certify "credible and capable" Iraqi security forces to continue the transition of responsibility for security from multinational forces to Iraqi forces.
In the meantime, Sharp told the committee, multinational military personnel have made significant progress in recruiting, training and equipping Iraqi security forces, adding that the Iraqi people have "stepped forward."
"More than 225,000 Iraqi citizens have taken positions in the various components of the Iraqi security forces," he said.
That number, he said, includes 90,000 serving in the Iraqi Police Service, 18,000 in the Department of Border Enforcement, 37,500 in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, 9,750 in the Iraqi armed forces and 74,000 in the Facilities Protection Service.
Sharp added that based on current training and equipping schedules, he anticipates that the Department of Border Enforcement, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the Facilities Protection Service will be fully trained and equipped by September, the Iraqi armed forces by December, and the Iraqi police by June 2005.
He said that by the end of June, over $3 billion will have been committed for Iraqi Security Forces equipment, infrastructure and training.
Sharp also testified that Iraqi and multinational forces will continue to conduct stability operations to support the evolving Iraqi government, the restoration of essential services, and economic development.
He added that multinational forces will work in close consultation and coordination with the Iraqi government at all levels, and that he is confident the partnership will work.
"We -- the Iraqis, the coalition, and the U.S. armed forces -- will succeed in establishing a safe and secure environment in Iraq."