CIA Seeking Training Camps for Palestinian Forces

The CIA team which visited the region and formulated a plan for security reforms in the Palestinian Authority has started to look for sites at which new Palestinian security men are to train.

The CIA team which visited the region and formulated a plan for security reforms in the Palestinian Authority has started to look for sites at which new Palestinian security men are to train. These training camps are likely to be set up in Jericho, Jordan or Egypt; new Palestinian recruits are to be taught by Egyptian and Jordanian instructors, under American supervision.

On Friday in the West Bank, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat confirmed in an interview with Al-Jazeera that U.S., Egyptian, and Jordanian officials will monitor PA security reforms, and train new Palestinian recruits.

Yesterday's hour-long meeting between Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Abdel Razzak al-Yahye and CIA director George Tenet at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, centered on this new CIA plan for PA security reform.

The CIA team which drafted the plan stayed in the Middle East for a few weeks, and met with top Palestinian security men. U.S. officials conferred with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia as they drafted the plan for reform.

The plan, whose objective is a gradual break up of terror organizations in the territories, calls for the dismantling of existing PA security mechanisms, whose staff are to be given early retirement; new security men are to be recruited in the plan's second phase.

Arafat adviser Nabil Abu Rudeinah said yesterday that talks held by Palestinians in the U.S. represent an "important development" contributing to the "realization of security and stability in the region." He added that the talks constitute an "opportunity to improve relations with the U.S."

Arafat's aide said that Palestinian representatives in the U.S. have told American officials that no reform program can work so long as Israel's conquest continues. "If the American government is earnest about the search for stability and security, it should display seriousness in its relations with Israel, and compel it to withdraw" from the territories, Abu-Rudeinah said.

U.S. sources indicated yesterday that the CIA chief and State Department officials disagree about timetables for the implementation of the PA security reform plan. Whereas the State Department officials believe that the time has come to move ahead with PA reform plans, Tenet is concerned that conditions in the territories are not ripe for the security proposal. The CIA chief fears that if the plan is launched before there is quiet on the ground, it is likely to fail, say U.S. officials.

U.S. officials will monitor the results of discussions about Israel's proposal to implement the security reform plan in "Gaza first." Responding to the Israeli proposal, Palestinian officials in Washington indicated that the plan should be implemented concurrently in Gaza and at least one West Bank city.

The U.S. government plans in coming weeks to send a State Department official to the region to help promote PA reform initiatives, particularly in the financial and political spheres. The identity of this official, and the date of his/her departure, have yet to be determined; yet the official is not expected to address security reform issues, which have become the responsibility of the CIA.