But Lieutenant General Ahmad Kazim Ibrahim warned that without adequate telecommunication equipment and reinforcements he would be powerless to secure a grip on Baghdad and other major cities as US troops began to withdraw.

"The interior ministry has carried out studies and designed plans to set up a security belt around Baghdad and other big cities in the near future," said Ibrahim.

Police and troops from the paramilitary Iraqi Civil Defence Force (ICDC) would be deployed at all entry points to Baghdad and the main cities "to check organised crime and terrorism," he said.

"Communicating with the provinces is very difficult and often there is no communication at all"

Ahmad Kazim Ibrahim,
Iraqi police official
 

Iraqi security forces are made up of 67,000 policemen, 9000 border guards, about 19,000 ICDC members and 40,000 members of the Force for the Protection of Sites (FPS) in addition to 1800 soldiers in the country's new army.

The US-led occupation coalition employs an additional 57,000 FPS, bringing the total number of Iraqi security to 193,000, according to coalition officials. 

But General Ibrahim, who also holds the security dossier at the
interior ministry, said his force was "crippled" by the lack of communication equipment and insufficient men.

"Communicating with the provinces is very difficult and often there is no communication at all" he said. 

He hoped new equipment would be received by a 30 June deadline for the handover of power from the US occupation coalition to an Iraqi authority. 

Anti-terror squad

The interior ministry has plans to set up a special anti-terror and vice squad once an appropriate training programme receives funding, he said. 

Boosting the capacity of the police force is a top priority as the US army has announced plans to drastically scale back its
presence in central Baghdad, allowing Iraqi police to gradually take control of the troubled city.

Brigadier General Martin Dempsey, commander of the US 1st
Armoured Division, based in the Iraqi capital, said on 2 February his forces would go from 24 base camps to eight by about 1 May.

He said security in Baghdad would increasingly become the responsibility of Iraqi police, due to number 10,000 in the capital by May and 19,000 by February 2005.