Marines to soften image in Iraq

The US Marines, set to replace the US Army in western Iraq, are planning a shift in tactics with a focus on lessening use of force and increasing cultural sensitivity.

    US troops will be instructed to show more respect to the local population

    Acording to a report in the Washington Post on Wednesday, the Marines moving into the region would also emphasise in public messages

    that the new troops are not from the Army.

    Maj Gen James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, California, has told the Post he plans to lead a two-

    pronged effort.

    The first involved capturing or killing insurgents who attack Marines as part of opposition to their presence in Iraq.

    The other part of the plan is to diminish support for resistance fighters among the Iraqi population.

    Several attacks on US occupation troops have been carried out in the north and west of Baghdad over the past six months.

    The incoming Marines will be taught basic Arabic, counselled on religious etiquette and told never to wear sunglasses when talking to

    Iraqis as part of a plan to show respect for the local population, the Post said.

    The Marine planning document said platoons would live among the people in many of the occupied towns and villages to facilitate training of

    the Iraqi police and civil defence forces.

    Army officers and others who saw the planning document viewed it as an implicit criticism of the Army's tactics and results in the region,

    the Post said.

    However, the commander of the Marine Corps due for deployment said he did not see the approach as a criticism of the Army.

    Rather, Maj Gen Mattis said the planning document reflected intense discussions and "the free competition of ideas in the world", according

    to the newspaper.

    Reorganising command

    Rumsfeld plans to spread the
    responsibility in Iraq

    Senior US defence officials are, meanwhile, discussing a reorganisation of the military hierarchy in Iraq, currently headed by Central

    Command (Centcom) chief General John Abizaid.

    Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hinted on Tuesday a general could be named to supervise only military operations in Iraq.

    Rumsfeld added he and General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "have talked about" such a reorganisation.

    "But not in a fully structured way yet," he said, adding that Myers "is going to be coming back to me at some point in discussing that".

    "It may very well be that we will want to make an adjustment and have some division of responsibility," Rumsfeld said.

    Centcom is responsible for US military operations over an area stretching from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia, including the Middle East,

    making Abizaid the head of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Policeman killed
    Clashes with resistance fighters have become a daily occurrence since US-led forces inavded Iraq in March this year.

    A policeman and two civilians were killed when assailants rained gunfire on a checkpoint west of Kirkuk on Wednesday.

    Security forces have increased
    surveillance on highways

    The checkpoint was ambushed on the road between the northern oil refinery of Baiji and the town of Hawija.

    "Unknown gunmen sprayed automatic weapon fire at a police checkpoint... killing a policeman and two civilians," police officer Ahmad

    Hasan Ali said.

    The civilian's car was stopped at the checkpoint when the gunfire erupted at 04:10 GMT, the officer said. The attackers immediately fled.

    A policeman was also killed on his way to work near the northeastern city of Baquba on Tuesday.

    Elsewhere, US troops arrested 80 people in raids on the strongholds of suspected resistance fighters.

    In raids in Tamim, Salahuddin and Diyala provinces on Monday and Tuesday, 53 people were arrested, the military said.

    In the flashpoint province of al-Anbar, troops detained "27 enemy personnel" over a 24-hour period ending on Tuesday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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