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Iraq: Vice President Appeals For More Coalition Troops

Al-Hashimi (left) with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at a Baghdad press conference (file photo) (RFE/RL) NEW YORK, December 20, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi has said he remains optimistic about his country's future, despite the spiraling wave of violence, which some already consider a civil war.

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on December 19, al-Hashimi said he expects a "brand new" strategy from Washington.

He emphasized that U.S. methods so far have often been "counterproductive."

'Excessive Force'

Al-Hashimi -- who heads the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni party that is part of the government -- was especially critical of what he called the U.S. military's heavy-handed tactics:

"The time has come, in fact, to devise a strategy," al-Hashimi said. "The manpower of Al-Qaeda in Iraq does not exceed 1,000. The way the American administration [is confronting] this challenge is so far by using excessive force, by mass [incursions into] innocent peoples' houses. And they are pushing their own people, in fact, to be more extremist. This policy must be changed because it has proved to be counterproductive."

Al-Hashimi met last week with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House. Al-Hashimi said that during that meeting, he reiterated his view that the Bush administration should honor its commitment to the people of Iraq.

But al-Hashimi said one problem is that in his view, there are too few foreign combat troops in Iraq.

"One of the problems facing the security file in general is the shortage and the incompetent troops in Iraq," al-Hashimi said. "It may be shocking to you when I say that out of 135,000 soldiers within the coalition spectrum, you have only between 20,000 and 25,000 considered as combat soldiers. And the rest, 100,000 coalition forces, are acting only as logistics troops."

Insurgency Or Resistance?

Regrettably, al-Hashimi said, the need to rely on foreign troops to restore order in Iraq is born out of the incompetence and weakness of the Iraqi security forces and army.

Al-Hashimi said a clear distinction should be drawn between what he called Al-Qaeda's agenda in Iraq and the objectives of the insurgents. These forces, he says, must be brought within the political process in the country.

"You call it 'insurgency,' we call it 'resistance,'" he said. "They are very much prepared to contribute and to participate in the political process as long as we offer to them a doable, a workable, a significant project to accommodate them. My message to them in fact over the past weeks [is] that the time [has come], the game is now different. We need them in fact to come to discuss around a table what they need, in which way are they dreaming to be a partner, a contributor in the political process."

Al-Hashimi said that prior to his trip to the United States, he met a several insurgent representatives, who asked him to convey to the U.S. administration their readiness to join the political process.

Iraq In Transition

Iraq In Transition

THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.