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U.S. Hopes Iraq's Army Can Avoid Civil War

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

Counterinsurgency expert Kalev Sepp, an instructor at the Naval Post-Graduate School, has been aiding U.S. commanders with the program. He's just returned from his fifth trip to Iraq. He joins us now from member station KPCC in Pasadena. Thanks very much for being with us, Mr. Sepp.

KALEV SEPP: Thanks, Scott.

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SIMON: And how is this program different than some other U.S. military advisory programs have been? Or at least what's it emphasizing?

SEPP: The point is to get the Iraqis to be able to not only run their own units, but ideally get them to the point where they can train themselves, become self-sustaining.

SIMON: Mr. Sepp, we are reminded of the fact that not so long ago the Iraqi and U.S. armies faced each other on the field of battle. How receptive are Iraqis to working with Americans?

SEPP: In other places there's resistance, incompetence, corruption. It's uneven.

SIMON: We had a civil war in our country some time ago and people in the army chose sides. You must worry about people in the Iraqi army choosing sides now.

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SEPP: The army right now, for the most part, stands apart from that kind of factionalism. But it seems to be understood that certain units are already leaning toward the sides that they prefer. And if at some point it's possible that - if the situation degenerates and the worst possible thing happens, is that elements of the army are already poised to join different factions.

SIMON: That would unfortunate to tragic.

SEPP: The police are years behind the army in their development. The army is holding everything together right now.

SIMON: Kalev Sepp is instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School and counterinsurgency advisor to U.S. commanders in Iraq. Thanks very much for being with us.

SEPP: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.