Following Friday's devastating car bombing in Najaf, in which Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, among many others, was killed, American and Iraqi officials were reviewing the possibility of establishing a large Iraqi paramilitary force to help improve security in the country, according to the New York Times.
In its Sunday edition, the paper reported that Iraqis involved in the talks said the force could include thousands of Iraqis already screened by the various political parties for prior affiliations with ousted leader Saddam's government.
Iraqi officials added that such a militia could ultimately take control of Iraqi cities from US troops.
According to Iraqi leaders, a force of several thousand men, the majority of them with military experience, could be ready in little more than a month.
The Iraqi force under discussion could be drawn from the several militias already maintained by many of the leading Iraqi groups and political parties. These militias are sometimes used to control turf, fight petty crime and settle political disagreements.
"The situation has changed, and there is a new receptiveness to the idea," said Mudhar Shahkawt, a leading Iraqi exile who participated in the discussions. "This force could move inside the cities and allow coalition forces to withdraw to places outside."
For their part, American officials acknowledged that discussions were under way, but preferred not to speak about them in detail. They indicated that for the talks to succeed, they would have to address American worries about "unregulated, untrained bands of armed men operating under separate commands around the country", according to the report.
Still, several questions remained unresolved, including who would command the forces, the American military or the interim government. (Albawaba.com)
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