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US considers salvador option for iraq { January 10 2005 }

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Update: Monday, January 10, 2005. 10:06am (AEDT)
US mulls home-grown militias for Iraq
United States officials are considering training home-grown militias to take up arms against the persistent militant insurgency in Iraq, according to Newsweek magazine.

The strategy has been dubbed the "Salvador option" - a reference to tactics used by the US-supported regime in the Central American nation of El Salvador in its fight against leftist rebels during the 1980s.

"What everyone agrees is that we can't just go on as we are [in Iraq]," a senior US military officer told the magazine.

"We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defence and we are losing," the official said.

In El Salvador, the US Government under then-president Ronald Reagan supported "nationalist" hit squads that killed rebels as well as their supporters and leftist sympathisers.

Many US conservatives consider the policy to have been a success despite the bloodshed, Newsweek reports.

The magazine, quoting military officials familiar with the discussions, reports that one proposal is to send US Special Forces teams to advise, support and perhaps train Iraqi squads to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathisers.

The magazine went on to say that it remains unclear whether the policy would endorse assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in which targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation.

The squads, likely to be especially chosen Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, would even cross the border into Syria, Newsweek reported.

One holdover from the Reagan era with Central American experience is the current US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, who was ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s.

Honduras fought its own "dirty war" against leftist insurgents.


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