FALLUJAH, Iraq – Police got new uniforms, weapons and responsibilities Monday, and the U.S.-led central authority said it will recruit a national army -- parallel moves meant to give Iraqis a sense of empowerment and help coalition forces with the huge task of securing Iraq.
The dangers were underlined by yet another attack on Americans. Insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. military police patrol west of Khaldiyah late Monday, slightly wounding one American, an Army officer said.
The Iraqi army that was defeated in April and dissolved by a May 23 decree from the chief U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer (search), is to be re-formed and operational within a year. It initially will have one brigade of 12,000 men.
Even when it grows to a planned three brigades of 40,000 men in three years, the army still will be just 10 percent of the size of the force under Saddam Hussein (search).
Even so, the rebuilding of the army should help satisfy some soldiers left unemployed and destitute when Iraq's military was disbanded. Demonstrations by ex-servicemen have dogged the Coalition Provisional Authority (search) for weeks, and U.S. forces killed two men Wednesday when one protest turned violent.
The Bremer administration said it will pay former soldiers monthly stipends of between $50 and $150, a huge salary by Iraqi military standards. Before the war, an Iraqi army captain earned $25 a month and a conscript soldier about $10.
As many as 250,000 ex-soldiers would be eligible for the payments.
But officers with the rank of colonel or higher and senior members of the Baath party would receive nothing, said Walter Slocombe, a senior adviser on security and defense for the U.S. authority.
"I am pleased to announce this first step in creating an armed force that will be professional, nonpolitical, militarily effective and truly representative of the country," he said.
The new army, he said, will be responsible for protecting borders, providing security for key installations and helping clear mines -- tasks that could restore pride for Iraqi soldiers while freeing the American military to concentrate on quashing resistance to the occupation.
In Monday's attack, a rocket-propelled grenade bounced off the highway pavement and struck a Humvee on U.S. military police patrol, said 1st Lt. Carl Mulcahay, a platoon leader with the 115th Military Police Company.
The wounded American soldier was taken to an Army aid station for treatment. No other details on the soldier were immediately available. An infantry platoon searched the area for the attackers.
Earlier, three U.S. senators who met Bremer in Baghdad cautioned that Americans should expect their forces to remain in Iraq for as long as five years.
"I don't think the American people fully appreciate just how long we are going to be committed here and what the overall cost will be," said Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The initiative with the police force in Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad, was intended to boost morale, not hand over effective control.
In a Monday ceremony, the Iraqi police swapped their dark green paramilitary uniforms for U.S. Air Force-issue light blue shirts and navy trousers. They also replaced their webbed military pistol belts with black Calvin Klein replacements.
Gen. Yassim Mahmoud Hadit, Fallujah's deputy police chief, said his men will use their new pistols and rifles, five new pickup trucks and three sedans -- all provided by the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade -- to patrol the city and stem near-daily attacks on U.S. troops.
However, Hadit acknowledged that recent insurgent attacks on Iraqi officials cooperating with Americans have frightened his men.
"This is a problem for me and my men, but we can solve it by doing more patrols and by cooperating with the public," and by working with the mayor and religious leaders, Hadit said.
The .38-caliber pistols issued by the Americans were a start, but his men need assault rifles and vehicles to confront armed insurgents, he said.
Iraqi police have been leading patrols in Fallujah, with U.S. Army Military Police providing the firepower to lend them credibility, said Capt. Joe Hissim, commander of the 3rd Military Police Company.
Fallujah, a city of more than 300,000 people, has a police force of 300 men. Shortly after entering the city in April, U.S. troops killed 20 Iraqi demonstrators, creating a volatile situation in an area known for conservative Sunni values.
Fallujah's mayor, Taha Bedani Alwan, said the relationship between residents and U.S. troops has improved.
"Today we can see who is working to see the city back to normal and we can see who is working against us," he told the gathered Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers.
Local tailors have been given orders to stitch new uniforms to replace the interim Air Force garb. Several Iraqi soldiers said they were unhappy with their new outfits.
"I don't like them. They are too hot," Doab Abdullah said of the cotton shirts and polyester pants. "When thieves see the green uniform, they are afraid, but this, this means nothing to them."