General Mark Hertling, a spokesman for the US first armoured division in Iraq, says new US army units have started to arrive to replace his division.

 

The new units belong to the infantry division. Some of the division's personnel have already arrived and taken up positions around Baghdad airport 35km from the capital city. 

 

"We have around 30,000 people in Baghdad, and there are new units starting to arrive here," said Hertling.

 

Gradual change

 

"One brigade has been replaced already. There will be gradual replacement till mid-April, when we celebrate the hand-over of commandment to the infantry division."  

 

Iraqi police will form a barrier
between the US and Iraqi fighters

The latest American plans do not aim at just replacing soldiers in the field with newcomers. They also aim at reducing its personnel inside Baghdad, and at building eight military bases around the capital.

 

The new infantry division will count about 35,000 soldiers, most of whom have received special training in the US and Jordan on how to deal with Arab Muslim culture in an effort to ease tensions between the US army and Iraqi citizens.

 

The US army is also training Iraqi police and civil defence personnel to replace US army units inside Iraqi cities. US officials believe Baghdad security needs 19,000 policemen.

 

"We are working with the Iraqi police, civil defence and the new Iraqi army to improve the security situation here in Baghdad," Hertling added. "Preserving Baghdad's security will be handed to the Iraqi police when their units number 19,000." 

 

The deployment of Iraqi police has triggered controversy among Iraqis and across the wider Arab world. While some describe their mission as necessary to end the state of chaos following the occupation of Iraq, others see the Iraqi police as merely working to guard cities for the US occupation forces.