Attrition: Iraqi Police Clean House


May 31,2008: So far this year, the Iraqi police force has lost about 10,000 officers. Some80 percent of those were people fired for corruption or incompetence. The rest were combat casualties, as the police are heavily involved in operations against the Shia Mahdi Army militia, and al Qaeda.

Some 90 percent of the losses are from the anti-militia operations. That's because many police units had been infiltrated by Mahdi Army members (who joined for the paycheck, and to support the Mahdi Army as opportunities presented themselves.) The Mahdi Army also had the support of a large block of parliament members, as well as senior officials in the Interior Ministry (which controls all police.) Thus until the government decided to disarm the Mahdi Army late last year (after much debate, and arm twisting by the U.S.), police officers who belonged to the Mahdi Army were left alone (unless they were really, really incompetent, or corrupt). Once operations against the Mahdi Army began, police commanders were encouraged to clean house.

The government, and their foreign advisors (on police operations) have been training police commanders, and trying to get the government to fire the ones who were not up to the job, corrupt or traitors (working for the Mahdi Army or some other group). Many of the corrupt commanders have a senior government official protecting them (and getting a percentage of the loot.) Now, however, most government officials have made the connection between bad cops and their own personal safety. The police provide some of the security for government officials, and if enough cops are for sale, or not up to the job, the assassins will more likely get through.

There are still plenty of bad cops, but at least the house cleaning is under way. At the same time, the government has allowed thousands of experienced Sunni Arab police to rejoin the force. These senior officials were fired in 2003 because they belonged to the Baath Party. That membership was mandatory for those key positions, and the Sunni Arabs have long been demanding a case-by-case review, to separate those Baath Party (a largely Sunni Arab outfit) members who really were Saddam supporters, and those who joined just to keep their jobs.

The Iraqi Provincial Police have 275,000 people on the payroll, with 155,000 trained and about 200,000 available for duty. Many of those on the payroll do not exist, and their commanders pocket the pay for these phantom cops. This is a common scam, is thousands of years old, and was believed to have been first invented long ago by some official in this area.

The National Police have 32,000 on the payroll, and 25-30,000 on the job. Again, the phantom problem. The Border Police has about 39,000 on the payroll, with 30-35,000 available for duty.




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