Accessibility links

Breaking News

Interview with William Durch, Henry L. Stimson Center - 2003-05-29

The number of troops necessary to maintain security and stability in Iraq has been in question. VOA-TV’s David Borgida speaks with , William Durch, a Senior Associate at the Henry L. Stimson Center about what it will take to establish a new Iraqi government.

And now joining us to talk about Iraq, William Durch, a Senior Associate at the Henry L. Stimson Center. He's the Center's Co-Director on the Future of Peace Operations Project and an expert on the United Nations and post-conflict Iraq.

That's certainly where we are, Mr. Durch, in post-conflict Iraq, and I would like to ask you first about a portion of Chris Simkins' piece that preceded this. And that is to say the numbers of troops that are going to be required to maintain some security and stability, there are reports that more are needed and there is certainly some debate, and perhaps some controversy, about this in official Washington. What's your view about that?

Well, I think the civilian leadership at the Pentagon hoped that they could get by with fewer troops, and I think the Army was always concerned it was going to take more. And General Shinseki, as you heard, said several hundred thousand. There are probably 200,000 now. My guess is it's going to have to increase a bit more because they're still encountering some resistance. And frankly, we're not really sure where all the Special Republican Guards went and the secret police guys. So, until we kind of get that settled, we're not quite sure what the level of resistance might be.

It's something to talk numbers, it's also another thing to talk about the kind of function and the training that the troops there have. I think I heard one soldier reportedly say something like we're here to do a job and a mission, but now we're doing something that we weren't planning to do. Do you expect the kind of troops that are going to be there for the weeks and months ahead to change?

To my knowledge, we haven't actually trained any of the units to do peacekeeping. The smaller units that have gone into Bosnia, up to division strength, have been trained to do peacekeeping ahead of time. The same with Kosovo. In this case, I don't believe that's true, but it may change over time as units rotate. We're going to be there for a while.

The divisions coming in now have more experience with peacekeeping institutionally, even if their individual troops haven't done it. So, that's an improvement. There is also the civil affairs troops and special operations guys who do this kind of hearts and minds thing, as they have in Afghanistan. And there is the whole question of civilian police, which we really don't have in great numbers. In fact, we have none of our own to contribute.

Let's talk about another area on which you are expert, and that is the United Nations and its role. How do you see that shaping up in the months ahead? Should the United Nations be playing a greater role at this point or are you satisfied with what you're seeing on the ground?

Well, there is at least two tiers of U.N. involvement. One is the humanitarian agencies that have a blanket mandate to participate, and they have been there since the security situation permitted. And then there is the political arms and the economic development arms, like the Bank and IMF, who needed this Security Council resolution from last week, 1483, to give them the green light to go in. And that's also true for some of the allies that wanted to come in, like Poland, to help provide security.

So, 1483 has established the bona fides of the occupation. It said we are in fact accepting the role of occupying powers under the Geneva Conventions and other law, that the sanctions are lifted, that the authority can buy and sell oil after a six-month transition period, where the U.N. Oil for Food Program is wrapped up in an orderly fashion.

There is also a major paragraph on the U.N.'s political role. And Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was the Special Representative for Kofi Annan in East Timor and the first Special Representative in Kosovo after the war and has a great deal of experience, therefore, in these kind of post-conflict transitions, is the new U.N. Rep. So far, the current resolution gives him coordinating responsibilities over U.N. functions within the country and a mandate to work intensively with the authority, with us and the British, to reestablish the Government of Iraq.

I think there needs to be another resolution after the U.N. has been on the ground for a while to really scope out what he and his people can do. By contrast, Mr. Brahimi in Afghanistan has full authority over all U.N. programs in that country.

Let's talk about how the situation in Iraq compares to some of these other situations you've mentioned where the United Nations has a presence. In a couple of minutes, if you could, give us some information about that. How does it compare? Is it more lawless, more violent, worse off than some of these other countries were in this same mode, or how would you characterize it?

Well, first of all, it is the case that when the U.N. has gone into a country in the past, say, 10 years, in general it has been in the wake of a civil war and a peace agreement, and it has helped to implement those. Where there has been no peace agreement, then it's a harder job. Kosovo, for example, was kind of a peace enforcement operation by NATO. The U.N. was brought in to administer the Paris Accord, but there is still no political end state. The notion of independence versus going back under Serb rule is very contentious. So, they're a little bit stuck there.

In Timor, everyone in East Timor and in the international community agreed it was going to be independent of Indonesia. They, after two years, held elections -- about a year ago. They were successful and they were peaceful. And the country is still very poor but at least everyone agrees it's a country and it's in the United Nations.

Bosnia has the Dayton Accords, but the two sets of parties, three sets of parties there, aren't agreed as to whether it's one country or two or three. That's a problem.

Everybody agrees for now that Iraq is a single country, but it has the Kurds in the north, the Sunni Arab majority in the center, the Shia Arabs a majority in the south, each one a bit restive as to being ruled by the others, no experience of democracy. They haven't had their civil war so they haven't sorted things out yet. We have to do that; the international community has to do that.

A lot of sorting out to do.

That's right.

William Durch, Senior Associate at the Henry L. Stimson Center here in Washington, thanks for giving us some perspective and insight into the situation. We appreciate it.

Thank you.