Iraq: September 27, 2004


There are some 400,000 organized and armed security personnel policing Iraq, with some 238,000 of them Iraqi, and the rest foreign (mainly American.) There are also several hundred thousand unorganized Iraqis (local militias) who provide security, especially in the Kurdish north and Shia Arab south. With a few exceptions (like the Shia al Sadr gunmen and many Sunni Arab groups), these gunmen keep pro-Saddam and criminal gangs from causing trouble. Most of the Iraqi government security forces are deployed in these areas, where there is no resistance to the central government. But the Sunni Arab areas, where Saddam had nearly all of his support, and was the source of his enforcers, these men are still fighting to regain power. 

Iraqi security forces are a mixed bag. Over 100,000 are just local guys with guns, hired to guard roads and buildings and keep the criminals under control. Thieving is a popular occupation with young Iraqi men. Among the organized and uniformed security forces there are 74,000 Facilities Protection Service security guards. These men protect infrastructure, government buildings and military bases. The Department of Border Enforcement has some 14,000 border guards. The Iraqi national police have 39,000 officers. The Iraqi National Guard, which is something of a cross between riot police, SWAT teams and army troops, has some 39,000 troops. The army only has about 5,000 troops, although there is also an elite military force, some 2,000 men in the Iraqi Intervention Force, which performs counterinsurgency duties.

The major problem has been leadership. Under Saddam, nearly all the military and police commanders were Sunni Arabs. These men were carefully watched by the secret police, and any commander who betrayed Saddam was liable to personal, and family, punishment. So the Sunni Arab opposition has access to most of the trained military and police commanders, while the current government has to train new leadership from scratch. This has been a major problem. There is also the corruption problem. Most Iraqis see nothing wrong with betraying your employer if the bribe is large enough. Saddams supporters have lots of cash, and they are still bribing security force commanders when they have an opportunity to do so. 

About 100,000 members of the Iraqi security forces have gone through some kind of training, and another 20,000 are currently going through training courses. Most of the training is in newly established facilities inside Iraq, although Jordan has been training Iraqi police for over a year. About 8,000 army recruits, NCOs and officers are in training, as are 5,500 men for the Iraqi Intervention Force. 

In the next two years, another 100,000 uniformed security troops are to be recruited and trained. There are no shortage of recruits, but it will take time to train officers and NCOs, and get them practical experience. In the meantime, it will be common for Iraqi security forces to perform poorly.


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