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Govt-in-waiting can’t wait
- American nominee in a hurry to move into Iraq
Garner

Kuwait, April 6: They camp at the Hilton in Kuwait, rarely publicise their presence and the security at the beach resort on the Persian Gulf here discourages wanderers and tourists. The nucleus of America’s government in Iraq to be headed by Lieutenant General Jay Garner is here.

Even before the fall of Baghdad, the “government” is likely to move to southern Iraq, possibly to Umm Qasr, and then on to the Iraqi capital.

Garner (picture left), a former three-star general, is not alone. His teammates who may find slots in the interim administration to be run from the Pentagon could be a former American official who worked in Sudan, Timothy Carner; a former director of Voice of America radio, Robert Reilly; and a former US ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine. The interim administration may also co-opt some British officials.

Indications are the interim administration will be planted in Iraq even as the war rages. The most “secure” of Iraqi territory is in the south of the country where the British forces are in command.

General Garner has been designated director of the Pentagon’s ‘Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq’. The ‘coalition forces’ land component command’ is understood to be working out a meeting with the media for him shortly, possibly as early as tomorrow.

The anointing of the interim government is not contingent on the fall of Baghdad or the demise of Saddam Hussein. Even in Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom, the interim government of Hamid Karzai was installed while the war continued (and continues). The difference, however, is that in Iraq, the head of the administration is likely to be an American. Washington is not yet unanimous on appointing leading Iraqi dissident Ahmed Chalabi to the post.

Garner is 64 years old and since retiring from the armed service, worked with a defence contractor, L-3 Communications. He was in charge of protecting Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf war. This time, he will be in charge of everything that the military is not.

However, he and the interim arrangement would report to General Tommy Franks, chief of the US Central Command. Garner’s immediate task will be to provide a semblance of civil administration in ‘liberated’ Iraq’s war-ravaged and lawless land.

Though it is not yet confirmed, the possible location of the interim administration in Umm Qasr — to begin with — has been made because it is close to the border with Kuwait and is also Iraq’s only port, where large quantities of military equipment and humanitarian aid would be landing. The seat of the interim administration may be moved to the renamed Baghdad International Airport if and when it is secured.

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