Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Weighs Security for Kurds and Shiites Gulf Partners Discuss Makeup, Location of a Force in East Turkey or Northern Iraq

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Weighs Security for Kurds and Shiites Gulf Partners Discuss Makeup, Location of a Force in East Turkey or Northern Iraq

Article excerpt

SINCE the end of the Gulf war the United States has faced a dilemma: how to get US troops out of Iraq without leaving Kurdish and Shiite rebels at the mercy of Saddam Hussein.

At first the Bush administration plan was to disengage as fast as possible, leaving Kurdish protection to United Nations police units and implicit threats. Now the White House appears to have listened to arguments from coalition allies that threats are all to the good, but what's really necessary is military muscle based near Iraqi rebel regions.

The US is discussing with its Gulf allies the possibility of a permanent rapid-deployment force to be based in eastern Turkey, or perhaps even northern Iraq. Still undecided are such details as force size, what sort of military units individual nations would provide, and who would be in charge. This rapid-deployment force "could supplement UN forces in maintaining security in the area," White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater noted June 24.

The UN formally took over the job of running refugee relief efforts in northern Iraq on June 7. Before then, US troops processed and assisted some 650,000 Kurdish refugees in Iraqi and Turkish camps.

As of the beginning of this week only 14,000 Kurdish refugees remain in a camp in Silopi, Turkey, according to US officials. Two of the three tent camps near Zakhu in northern Iraq have been emptied and been shut down. The one remaining camp still houses 13,000 refugees. The city of Dohuk, once a ghost town, now has about two-thirds of its original 300,000 population back.

About 540,000 Iraqi refugees are still in Iran, according to US estimates, down from a postwar high of 1.1 million.

The UN security presence in northern Iraq now includes 57 guards, with 100 more on the way. Lack of funds has slowed deployment of the full 500-man force planned by the UN. The European Community on June 24 promised to provide both manpower and money to cover the estimated $51 million needed for the full UN force. …

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