Monday, May 22, 2006

Slow progress with the Iraqi police

One should not ignore the progress that has been made. However, it is at best a mixed bag. The New York Times reports:
Now the Pentagon is spreading 3,000 police trainers across the country. Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, who is in charge of the Pentagon's current program to remake the force, said his top priority was to improve basic skills while preventing corruption. He said the new effort was making strides toward the goal of having a force of 190,000 officers by early next year with better training and an appreciation of human rights.

"Every day the Iraqis improve their capability to do their job," General Peterson said.

The task ahead is reflected in recent confidential field reports filed by police trainers and obtained by The Times. The reports display a startling mix of heroics and incompetence, dedication and criminality.

In Diyala Province on March 21, where nearly two dozen police officers were killed when militants attacked their station, the police "fought until they ran out of ammunition," a police adviser reported. A week earlier, when the police in western Iraq were attacked, the officers abandoned their post or generally "responded horribly, displaying no firing discipline and failing to take defense positions."

One of the grimmest dispatches came from Mosul, where a police general reported militant "schools" operating inside a nearby prison teaching detainees insurgent tactics and extremist views. When an insurgent was released from prison, another general reported, officers at a station in Al Hawd fired their weapons to celebrate his freedom.

In Nineveh Province in northern Iraq, an alert major crimes unit stopped a car after noticing that it had a jerry-rigged bumper and that hidden inside were all the tools for an insurgent attack — mortar tube and shells, ski masks and AK-47 rounds. But just to the south in Al Tamin, a police officer seriously injured himself trying to disarm a roadside bomb by shooting it.


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