Immediate goal is an infusion of stability
By Robert Schlesinger, Globe Staff, 04/10/2003
WASHINGTON -- Coalition forces will focus on securing and stabilizing Baghdad in coming days, simultaneously trying to eliminate any last pockets of resistance while restoring civic order to Iraq's capital, US officials said yesterday.
The US military is expected to quell civil unrest in the city, but military officials caution that the Army infantrymen and Marines are not trained as police. The key, officials said, will be restoring utilities like water and electricity. The officials hope to quickly restart basic governmental functions, including the police force and the work of civil servants who were not closely involved with the oppressive tactics of Saddam Hussein's regime.
"We think that the fractious behavior in Basra, and to some extent in Baghdad, will settle down," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told reporters. "As I understand it, primarily the looting was directed against symbols of the government . . . and that's beginning to settle down."
Armitage said that Jay Garner, a retired general who will oversee the reconstruction of Iraq, was to arrive in Baghdad late last night or early today. Garner and his civilian team have been in Kuwait, overseeing reconstruction efforts in southern Iraq, including re-establishing water and electricity to towns the coalition has cleared of resistance. His arrival in Baghdad will be a signal that the reconstruction phase of the country has begun in earnest -- even while the military phase still rages in some parts of the country.
"He'll almost immediately be a signal that we are providing goods and services to those areas," Armitage said.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld cited the port city of Umm Qasr, captured early in the Iraq war, as an example of coalition humanitarian efforts.
"The population has increased from 15,000 to 40,000, due to availability of supplies and employment," Rumsfeld said. "Water supply is above prewar levels . . . electricity has been restored by [British] engineers. Sufficent food is readily available. Medical facilities are sufficient and operating."
US officials plan to use as much of the existing civic infrastructure as possible, especially regular police and government bureaucrats,
during the transition to a new government. The United States will fund the Iraqi government during this transition, including paying the salaries of those Iraqi officials.
"General Garner has got an enormously difficult task to get all of these things up and running, free of, as I have suggested, the Ba'ath-ist influence at the top," Armitage said. "Signals that these are being done by Iraqis with coalition advice . . . I think will be a very good sign for all Iraq."
The US military is expected to divide Baghdad into security zones for which different Army and Marine units will be responsible. But the city is not yet completely under US control, officials said, and in this period before an Iraqi police force takes charge in Baghdad, issues remain about what role the armed forces will play in maintaining order.
"Armies don't do [police activities] very well, and it gets into a different mission set," a Pentagon official said. Facing coalition commanders in the next days, the official said, are decisions on what policing tasks the military will undertake, such as saving lives, protecting property, and quelling domestic disputes.
"I'm not sure we as a coalition have thought that through," the official said, noting that the US military police are already stretched thin because of deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The official added that the mere presence of military vehicles can "put a damper on extracurricular activities," but noted that the United States does not have enough soldiers on the ground to thoroughly police a city of nearly 5 million. Soldiers who have been in intense combat will also have to rapidly transition to react to situations with greater restraint.
"We gave out a bunch of medals in the last three weeks for guys pulling a trigger and hitting something," the official added. "We're getting to the point now of giving medals for not pulling a trigger."
Military officials believe that restoring water and electricity will help quell much of the kind of rioting and demonstrating that occured in Baghdad. Humanitarian aid will also start flowing into the city, probably through the renamed Baghdad International Airport. Military civil affairs and psychological operations personnel will try to persuade Iraqis to remain calm.
The US Agency for International Development will also send "abuse prevention teams," Armitage said, teams that "actually try to resolve revenge, things of that nature, short of any physical harm."
Current and former military officials agreed that the effort will require the cooperation of Iraqis.
"It's not something we can impose from outside," said John Reppert, a retired Army brigadier general. "Your religious and civic leaders from inside the country and inside Baghdad have to take some responsibility for bringing their own populations under control."
This reconstruction effort will begin as the final armed resisters in the city are captured or killed. General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that elements of the Special Security Organization, the Special Republican Guard, irregular paramilitary units, and other members of the regime are believed to remain in the city.
"While Iraqis are beginning to celebrate in parts of Baghdad and several other areas, there are portions of Iraq still in the grip of fear," Myers said. "Fighting inside the capital remains a substantial risk to coalition forces, and we cannot and must not become overconfident."
Anne Barnard of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Camp Sayliyah, Qatar; John Donnelly of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Washington. Robert Schlesinger can be reached at email@example.com