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US to Begin Recruiting Volunteers for New Iraqi Army


The U.S.-led civilian administration in Iraq says it will begin recruiting volunteers for the new Iraqi army by the middle of this month.

At a press conference on Wednesday, the Coalition Provincial Authority announced that it is preparing to open recruitment centers and repairing an Iraqi military base near the border with Iran to begin training its new volunteer Iraqi army.

The administration's senior adviser on security and defense, Walter Slocombe, says the first round of recruitment for officers and enlisted men will begin in the next couple of weeks. Once the men are inducted into the army, Mr. Slocombe says they will be trained as light infantry units.

"The training operation will be under the command of Major General Paul Eaton, who was until very recently in charge of training American infantrymen and will now be in charge of training Iraqi infantrymen," he said. "But I want to emphasize that the officers in the new units will be Iraqis."

Late last month, the American-led administration laid out plans to create an army numbering about 40,000 soldiers during the next two years. At the same time, administration officials said that Iraqi officers would receive, indefinitely, monthly stipends nearly equal to the salaries they had received under Saddam.

The timing of the announcement was widely seen as an attempt to placate hundreds of thousands of angry career military men who found themselves unemployed in a shattered post-war economy.

Iraq's 400,000 strong army was dissolved on May 23 as part of a drive to rid the country of Saddam's Baath party legacy.

Mr. Slocombe says while many of the soldiers who served under Saddam will be eligible to participate in the new Iraqi army, many others will have to find work outside of the military.

The administration expects as many as 250,000 former Iraqi officers to apply for the monthly stipend, which ranges between $50 and $100, depending on their rank. But Mr. Slocombe says officers of the rank of colonel or higher and senior members of the Baath party would receive nothing.

The first payments are expected to be handed out on July 15.