Counter-Terrorism: August 17, 2005


Last Fall, the Iraqi government began training a special police force to fight terrorists, and deal with large scale disorder. The Civil Intervention Force (CIF) is to have nine Public Order Battalions (POBs, with 400 police each) and two Special Police Regiments (SPRs, with 600 police each), plus a few hundred headquarters personnel. The POBs will be recruited from the region they will serve in, and back up the local police in emergencies. The SPRs are mainly for counter-terror operations. The training of these units has been completed, and the longer and more intense training has paid off. The government wont say how much, but reports from U.S. troops who run into these new police units indicate that the better trained (and apparently more carefully selected) cops are more competent and reliable. 

Two years ago, police were recruited from those who had  previous experience in the Iraqi police. A few weeks training was given, and, in some areas, the same cops who had served Saddam, were back on the job. This did not work too well, especially in Sunni Arab areas that were still full of Saddam fans. The old police force was not very respected, or effective, back when they were in charge. Corruption, inadequate training and poor leadership were the reasons. Saddam enforced his rule with special security units that spread terror in areas where he did not poll well. Those thugs are now working for the anti-government forces, and Saddams old police force was never going to be able to deal with that crew.

The CIF is part of the new approach. Police training facilities have more than doubled. Screening procedures have been improved, but are still hampered by lack of public records and investigators. Leadership has been a major problem. Junior leaders are pretty good, but thats because these are newly selected and well trained. More senior police commanders have been tainted by the bad old days. Corruption and poor performance in the police force are two traditions Iraq has to lose if they are ever to have law and order. American troops and police advisors report many situations where the new Iraqi cops, out to do an honest days work, run up against the more traditional Iraqi police attitudes. All too often, tradition triumphs, if only because it is more frequently found higher up the chain of command.

One advantage the younger, less corrupt, police commanders have is that they are more effective at their jobs, and have subordinates who are more loyal to them. But the corrupt cops also have powerful weapons, like intimidation and murder. American intelligence troops have collected some hair-raising reports of good cops and bad cops fighting each other. Not always openly, but in sometimes fatal ways. The corrupt cops are easily bribed by the terrorists, who can then do the dirty work. 

Most Iraqi politicians at least pay lip service to the idea of honest and efficient police. But until Iraqis agree on what the new Iraqi constitution is supposed to be, not one is exactly sure if loyalty or honesty and efficiency is more important for cops.


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