Experts question efficacy of handing US military tasks in Iraq to civilians in 2011

Washington, Aug 19(ANI): With the United States military preparing to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, the Obama administration is reportedly preparing to hand over the lead to civilians.

However, administration officials and experts outside the government insist that carrying out the agreement will be challenging.

One American official said that over 1,200 specific tasks carried out by the US military in Iraq have been identified to be handed over to 2,400 civilians who would work at the Baghdad embassy and other diplomatic sites civilians or transferred to the Iraqis.

To move around Iraq without US troops, the State Department plans to rely on 6,000 to 7,000 security contractors, who are also expected to form "quick reaction forces" to rescue civilians in trouble.

Administration officials said that security contractors would have no special immunity and would be required to register with the Iraqi government.

They also plan to acquire 60 mine-resistant and ambush-protected vehicles, expand its inventory of armored cars to 1,320 and create a mini-air fleet by buying three planes to add to its lone aircraft.

In addition, one of the State Department's regional security officers, agents who oversee security at diplomatic outposts, will be required to approve and accompany every civilian convoy, providing additional oversight.

Daniel P. Serwer, Vice President of the United States Institute of Peace, questioned whether the steps would be sufficient.

"There is a risk it will open the door to real problems. Our soldiers have been out there in the field with the Kurds and Arabs. Now they are talking about two embassy branch offices, and the officials there may need to stay around the quad if it is not safe enough to be outside," The New York Times quoted Serwer, as saying.

James M. Dubik, a retired Army General who oversaw the training of Iraqi security forces in 2007 and 2008, supports Serwer's claims, and questioned if the State Department was fully up to the mission.

"The task is much more than just developing skills. It is developing the Ministry of Interior and law enforcement systems at the national to local levels, and the State Department has little experience in doing that," Dubik said.

The experts also believe that among the trickiest missions for the civilians will be dealing with lingering Kurdish and Arab tensions. (ANI)

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