The United States is developing plans to use soldiers from the Iraqi regular army to help rebuild the country if a U.S.-led coalition uses military force to disarm the country and topple the government of Saddam Hussein.
A senior U.S. defense official told reporters at the Pentagon that Iraqi army troops will be used to reconstruct the country following a possible war.
The official, who asked not to be identified, said the United States plans to use a large number of Iraqi regular army soldiers to build roads, work on bridges, remove rubble and land mines in a post-war Iraq.
Military analysts estimate there are more than 300,000 troops in the Iraqi regular army.
The official says members of the elite Republican Guards and the Special Republican Guards, soldiers aligned closely with President Saddam Hussein, would not be part of the rebuilding effort.
The defense official says the United States plans to use what he called "free Iraqis" for a short period of time, between three and six months, to assist in the reconstruction process.
He says American military officials are recruiting Iraqis currently living in the United States and European countries to help run ministries in Baghdad that provide services like health care to the Iraqi people.
The official says those Iraqis are being brought in because they currently live in democratic countries and understand the democratic process.
The official estimated there are more than two million Iraqis currently working for the Baghdad government and says most would be expected to stay on the job during the reconstruction effort.
He says the United States plans to fund the paychecks of many regular army and civilian Iraqis who work to rebuild their country.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told U.S. war veterans Tuesday during a speech in Washington that if there is a conflict America intends to hand over the day-to-day governance of Iraq to the Iraqi people as soon as possible.
"Our plan, as President Bush has said, is to remain as long as necessary and not one day more," he said. "The Iraqis also recognize that the economic and political reconstruction of their country will be difficult. It will take their best efforts, with the help of the United States and our coalition partners. But they are driven by the dream of a just and democratic society in Iraq."
U.S. defense officials say their current plan is to temporarily divide Iraq into three sections and establish separate civil coordinators in the north, central and southern areas of the country.
They did not estimate how much reconstruction will cost, saying only a request for funds will be included in a supplemental budget that will soon be sent from the Bush administration to the U.S. Congress.