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US Military Requests More Civilian Help in Iraq


A published report says top U.S. military commanders have told President Bush his new Iraq strategy could fail unless civilian agencies step forward quickly to help rebuild the country.

The New York Times newspaper says the officers complained about a request from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office that military personnel fill more than one-third of 350 new State Department jobs in Iraq that are to be created under the new strategy.

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday, Rice said the president's plan requires 350 people whose skills are different, including engineers, legal specialists and soil specialists. She said the State Department is relying on the recruitment of civilians with these special skills, outside of government agencies, from across the country. Rice also said the department has asked that reservists fill in temporarily until these specialists can be hired, trained and deployed.

President Bush's new strategy calls for sending more than 21,000 additional troops to Iraq to bolster security, along with U.S. civilian teams to step up reconstruction and political development efforts.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, told a Senate panel Tuesday that the U.S. needs to provide the same type of support services to civilians and their families who deploy to Iraq as are provided to members of the military.

The State Department's Iraq Coordinator, David Satterfield, told Congress in January that the department's mission in Iraq is the largest presence of the foreign service in any country of the world, including more than 140 foreign service officers in Baghdad.

Civilian employees and contractors who have worked in Iraq have complained that the security situation makes it difficult for them to do their jobs outside of the protected Green Zone.