Global Policy Forum

'We've Failed to Build New Iraq'


By Mattias Karen

August 3, 2005

Attempts at nation-building in post-war Iraq have "failed totally", the Polish prime minister warned yesterday, as the death toll since the start of the conflict among coalition troops reached 2,000. Marek Belka, the Polish leader and a key player in the United States-led coalition, accused planners of mistakenly basing the reconstruction of Iraq on the same model used for Germany after the Second World War. "It failed totally," Mr Belka said, speaking at a panel discussion on nation-building at an international forum in Sweden. "Many mistakes, major mistakes, have been committed."

He said there were reasons to be optimistic about Iraq, including the success of its elections. "The political process is moving on," he said, adding that elected officials in Iraq are "doing what should be done". However, the key was to "reconcile the divergent interests" of the Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. "There is much more of an Iraqi identity [among the groups] than you might think," he said. "They all think in terms of Iraq."

Poland, a staunch US ally, took part in the invasion and is one of the main contributors of military personnel to the coalition after the US, Britain and Italy. The Poles have commanded a multinational force there since September 2003, although its size has shrunk from 9,500 to 4,000 troops.

Strobe Talbott, a former US deputy secretary of state, who also participated in the round-table discussion, said President George Bush had put at risk "the peace of the greater Middle East with this venture". He urged the US and Britain to keep their troops in Iraq to provide sufficient security until the country's armed forces were themselves able to defend the state against insurgents. But he warned that next year's mid-term elections in the US may lead to a premature withdrawal of troops in Iraq. "My concern is that American domestic politics are going to kick in on this issue next year ... and that President Bush is going to redefine what 'staying the course' means, in a way that allows him to increasingly draw up a schedule that doesn't begin to leave time for the Iraqi forces to be able to provide security for that country," Mr Talbott said.

Meanwhile, US and British ambassadors met senior Iraqi ministers yesterday to discuss the transfer of security from foreign to Iraqi forces, a process that lays the groundwork for the withdrawal of overseas troops. It was the first meeting of a body known as the "commission for conditions-based transition", which will decide over the coming months which parts of the country are safe enough for Iraqi forces to take over and let foreign troops pull back.

The body, made up of Iraq's interior and defence ministers, its national security adviser, the US and British ambassadors, and the top foreign military commanders, said it would make its first recommendations to Iraq's prime minister next month. In a statement, the commission said it had agreed that the main consideration for any transfer of responsibility was the capacity of Iraqi forces to handle security alone. A US military report issued last month revealed that more than half of Iraq's army battalions and police units were still incapable of operating without American support.

Other considerations include the ability of local government authorities to keep order and provide services, and the level of insurgent threat in any region. Currently, about 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are considered relatively stable. But in the other four, insurgent attacks are frequent and sustained. Even in the more stable areas, Iraq's security forces are not capable of maintaining security alone. The lack of security was underlined yesterday by the deaths of seven US marines, killed in fighting in Iraq's western Anbar province, a guerrilla heartland that keeps challenging US and Iraqi troops despite repeated crackdowns. Those deaths pushed the number of US troops who have died since the start of the war in March 2003 to more than 1,800 and brought the total number of coalition casualties to 2,000.

More Information on Iraq
More Information on the State of the Coalition
More Information on Occupation and Rule in Iraq
More Information on Statements Against the War and Occupation
More Information on the Reconstruction of Iraq


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