Saturday, December 03, 2005

ARTICLES ON IRAQI MILITARY AND POLICE – DECEMBER 3, 2005 Deadly Dangers and Hope in Iraq’s New Army Equipped with little armour or ammunition, its soldiers can often be seen wearing balaclavas and toting AK-47 rifles as they ride around in the back of Nissan trucks. Training the new army to stand on its own feet is a key part of the U.S. military's plans to fight a Sunni Arab-led insurgency and eventually bring its troops home. U.S. officials frequently praise the new army's progress. They want it to become the face of security in the country, but the Iraqi army still relies heavily on the U.S. military to conduct day-to-day operations. In Baquba, north of Baghdad, U.S. officers who work closely with Kharye's soldiers say they are impressed with the progress made by the unit -- a trusted group who fought in deadly insurgent strongholds like Falluja. The U.S. soldiers recently handed over Camp Khamiss to the Iraqis, who solemnly raised their flag over the base. "What you're seeing is an army built from the ground up," said Major Mark Arrington, one of the officers in charge of training the Iraqi battalion. Despite the enthusiasm, telling details from daily operations show the force still has a long way to go. Officials Celebrate Iraqi Troops’ Growing Role in Securing Border Gen. George Casey, the American commander in Iraq, joined Iraqi Minister of Defense Sadoun al-Dulaimi and about 35 Iraqi officers who are in charge of guarding the Iraqi-Syrian border for a ceremony timed to coincide with President Bush's speech Wednesday outlining his administration's strategy in Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi leaders said that since the latest joint American-Iraqi offensive in that region, Operation Steel Curtain, cities such as Husaba no longer were safe havens for foreign fighters crossing that desolate border. And they said that because of the offensive, the Iraqi officers could go back to their jobs in the city and along the border and work on improving their skills. All reasons, they said, to celebrate. The ceremony also was aimed at illustrating a major theme from Bush's speech: The job in Iraq is only half-done. U.S. forces said they'd stay close to the Iraqis as those troops continued learning how to secure the border. Indeed, Iraqi commanders in this volatile part of the country said they couldn't do their jobs without help from American soldiers. Officially, the border officers are called the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Region, Department of Border Enforcement, but they're often referred to as Desert Wolves. Is the U.S. Training Iraqi Death Squads to Fight the Insurgency? In April, when the Shiite government took control, they started firing a lot of the commanders who were basically ex-Baathists, and they started bringing in their own guys, especially from the Badr Brigade. And a lot of these are concentrated in what's known as special police commandos, and they have all sorts of various brigades, one called the Wolf Brigade, the Scorpion Brigade, the Lion Brigade, another called the Fearless Warriors. And they sound like death squads. And they are death squads. They go around with masks. They're conducting these raids, especially throughout Baghdad. And the U.S. is saying, ‘Well, you know, who knows who's doing this?’ But when twenty vehicles pull up with a hundred troops in them, and reporters are recounting -- the New York Times article also recounts this -- they're showing up with sophisticated communications equipment. They're showing up with these expensive Glocks, nine-millimeter Glocks that were supplied by the U.S. government. They have the insignia, the uniforms of the special police commandos. And these -- In Baghdad there's a very strict curfew that’s in place every single night. Yet how can these large convoys of vehicles be going around? And so, they conduct these roundups, and in many areas it's largely Sunni Arab males. And then they're disappeared. They're taking them to this network of secret prisons. One of the things that’s come out is that there's this absolutely vast network of prisons throughout Iraq. In a nation of 27 million, the Iraqi government has 1,100 prisons. Iraqi Police Officer at Training Camp Disappears An Iraqi police officer attending a hush-hush training course with 39 other officers in suburban Berlin has gone absent without leave, raising fears in Germany Friday that he might be a terrorist mole. However federal police dismissed the fears, saying it was more likely he was enjoying the attractions of the big city until it was time for the party of police, prosecution and prison officers to fly home. An Interior Ministry spokesman in Berlin said the man, born in 1973, had gone missing on November 28. He had been vetted for any security risk before he came to Germany. Since the course participants were guests, they were not confined to barracks. Rebels Without a Pause The peshmerga, once easily recognized by their traditional baggy pants, called sharwals, and their peshdens – long scarves wrapped like cummerbunds around their waists – become the de facto army of Kurdistan. ….many experts say the peshmerga, newly outfitted in desert camouflage, could pay a significant role in creating security for the entire nation by integrating into the new Iraqi army – if they can be convinced in large enough numbers. DefenseLINK News: All-Iraqi Aircrew Goes Solo An all Iraqi aircrew flew its first solo mission aboard a C-130E from Ali Air Base, near Nasariyah in southeast Iraq, to New Al Muthana here Nov. 28, officials reported today. The nine aircrew members are part the 23rd Iraqi Squadron, which has been receiving training at Ali Air Base. "The flight marked a major milestone achievement by showing Iraq's capability of providing its own military transport," said Air Force Capt. Jerry Ruiz, forward operations executive officer at New Al Muthana Air Base. The aircrew performed what's called an engine running on-load, an expedient method of loading the aircraft for immediate takeoff, before its return to Ali, officials noted. New Al Muthana, the only Iraqi air base in the country, will be home to three C-130E aircraft. The Iraqi squadron will move to its new home here in January. US Military to Press Iraqi Police Training About 75,000 local police officers have been trained and deployed in Iraq, about half the estimated requirement of 135,000, the U.S. general in charge of training Iraqi security forces said on Friday. Army. Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey told Pentagon reporters in a teleconference from Iraq that separate training of 25,000 elite national police commandos was going well, but that building local police units was slower. Ethnic and religious rivalries have hampered efforts to form police forces in Iraq, but Dempsey said his training command would make 2006 "the year of the police," stressing instruction in human rights and democratic rule. Iraq Says Troops Have “A Long Way to Go” The report concludes that Iraq's army — praised just this week by Bush — needs more men, better leaders, new equipment and improved training to confront the insurgents without U.S. support. The 59-page report, compiled by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's office, reviewed the government's performance since taking office seven months ago. It was prepared for the administration that will take over after elections Dec. 15. Iraq's police and army — about 200,000 at present — are dominated by majority Shiite Muslims and are the subject of allegations of mass arrests and mistreatment of Sunni Arabs. The security forces are widely believed to have been infiltrated by militiamen linked to Shiite political parties and of carrying out assassinations of Sunni Arab clerics and politicians. Shiite politicians deny any link to the killings, which they blame on insurgents. Iraqi army and police commanders often complain that their weapons are inferior to those used by insurgents. They say that with sufficient firepower, they could take on the insurgents without help from the Americans, although they would still need armor and air support. "We can defend our nation on our own," said Col. Ali Kazim, a senior officer in a police commando unit, the Wolf Brigade. "The Americans should only support us. Weapons are all that we need and the Americans can just support us." Baghdad’s Haifa Still No Easy Street Violence has ebbed on the road once known as Purple Heart Boulevard since Iraqi soldiers took over, but there is still cause for anxiety. For Iraqi residents, Bush's words appear to ring true, to a large extent. The potholes have been filled, and the twisted car chasses are gone. On Thursday, Iraqi soldiers drove by in pickup trucks and conducted foot patrols without incident. But a brief visit to Haifa Street also provides a reminder that "safe" remains a relative concept in Iraq. Suspicion of outsiders continues to run high. So does antipathy for U.S. forces. Some residents said the newfound peace has been due less to the presence of Iraqi troops than to the absence of American soldiers to shoot at. "America, no! We don't need them," said Moustafa Ibrahim, 17, drawing a finger across his throat. Israelis Trained Kurds in Iraq Dozens of Israelis with a background in elite military combat training have been working for private Israeli companies in northern Iraq where they helped the Kurds establish elite anti-terror units, Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronot revealed Thursday. According to the report, the Kurdish government contracted Israeli security and communications companies to train Kurdish security forces and provide them with advanced equipment. Tons of equipment, including motorcycles, tractors, sniffer dogs, systems to upgrade Kalashnikov rifles, and bulletproof vests, have been shipped to Iraq’s northern region, with most products stamped ‘Made in Israel.’ The Israeli instructors entered Iraq through Turkey using their Israeli passports, undercover as agriculture experts and infrastructure engineers. The Kurds had insisted the cooperation projects were kept secret, fearing exposure would motivate terror groups to target their Jewish guests. Recent warnings that al-Qaeda may plan an attack on Kurdish training camps, prompted a hasty exit of all Israeli trainers from Iraq’s northern Kurdish regions. The Defense Ministry said in response to the report that, “We haven’t allowed Israelis to work in Iraq, and each activity, if performed, was a private initiative, without our authorization, and is under the responsibility of the employers and the employees involved." US General Won’t Predict When Iraqi Forces Will Take Lead Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey says he is not sure what the president's document means when it sets a "medium term" goal for Iraq taking "the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security." He repeated President Bush's statement that some of those forces are taking the lead in combat operations now, but he would not say when Iraq with take the overall lead on security matters. "I have not yet made sure that I completely understand the time horizons, but I'm sure that the definitions in there are consistent with the definitions we've been using over here. What you're asking me for is dates, and I'm not prepared to give you those," he said. Speaking from Iraq via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon, General Dempsey provided more figures about the size of Iraq's new security forces. He said the goal is to have a 160,000 strong Iraqi Army, 25,000 elite police commandos who help in the fight against the insurgency, 135,000 regular police officers, six thousand highway patrol officers and 27,000 border patrol troops. That would be a total of 353,000 security officers of all types. President Bush reported Wednesday that so far, 212,000 have been fully trained and equipped, but officials acknowledge many of them have little or no experience, a factor General Dempsey indicated is as important as the raw numbers. "My part of it is to build the force that then goes into the field and begins to perform. But there's a performance aspect as well. It's not just sticking (the Iraqi force) out there. It's got to actually be able to perform," he said. Sectarian Violence Tears at the Lives of Iraq’s Soldiers The men of the 1st Brigade of the Iraqi army's 6th Division work in the shadow of death. Most of the soldiers are Shiite Muslims, from Iraq's majority religious sect. Saddam Hussein's military intelligence unit - mainly Sunni Muslims - once used the base they live on, in the Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Kadhemiya, to interrogate and torture Shiites. They sleep in rooms where Saddamist thugs slept before them. They work in offices that were once torture chambers. The 1st Brigade is considered one of the best Iraqi outfits in the country. It was the first to get its own area of operations - the rough and tumble area west of the Tigris River in Baghdad - and it's capable of designing and carrying out complex missions. Yet many of the Shiite soldiers harbor deep anger toward Iraq's Sunni minority, and it's unclear where their loyalties lie: to Iraq or to their Shiite religious leaders. As soon as they cross into Sunni neighborhoods they face men willing to die just to spill their blood. And it's no better for the Sunnis among them. "The people of Hurriyah deserve to be doused with gasoline and set on fire," said 1st Sgt. Khalid Jabar, while driving through a local Sunni neighborhood last week. "When they kill Shiites no one asks why. But when they found out it was their turn to be killed they ask the whole world to help them." Many Sunni troops interviewed said that the bloodshed and the sectarian strife make them want to quit. US Goals for Iraqi Forces Meet Success and Challenges in Najaf But even here, in the southern Shiite heartland that is largely free of sectarian tensions, the American enterprise still faces steep hurdles, ones that are more subtle but no less subversive than the Sunni-led insurgency. Many of those blue-uniformed police officers are members of Shiite militias, including Mr. Sadr's Mahdi Army, which battled American troops here last year. Political rivalries occasionally erupt into violence, as when the Mahdi Army clashed with another militia in August. Corruption and kidnappings remain a problem, officials say, as does politically motivated crime. On Thursday evening, Hussein al-Zurfi, whose brother, Adnan al-Zurfi, a former Detroit businessman and ex-governor of Najaf who is running in the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections, was kidnapped in the neighboring town of Kufa. The American commanders say their soldiers have largely halted combat missions and now play a training and backup role for the Iraqi forces - a model, perhaps, for the 160,000 American troops in other parts of the country. In early September, the 500 soldiers of Colonel Oliver's battalion moved from a forward base on the outskirts of this city to a larger headquarters in the desert about a 40-minute drive away. A 900-person battalion of the Iraqi Army moved into the old American compound. It was one of the 28 American forward bases in Iraq that had been shut down by mid-November, with 15 of those having been transferred to Iraqi forces, said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a spokesman for the American command. He said the military expects to close four more of the remaining 82 forward bases within three months. (No mention in the article about the four huge new US bases being built in Iraq. – Susan) General Says Militias Split Loyalties of Iraqi Security Forces One of the biggest factors inhibiting the performance of the Iraqi police, then as now, has been the interference of private armed groups. In some cases, as in the spring of 2004, militias loyal to leaders like Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, attacked and overran Iraqi police stations. A greater problem now is that hundreds of militia gunmen have joined police departments around the country, while still retaining loyalties to their militia commanders and ill feelings toward their rivals. A result, in many cities, has been a blurring of lines between the police and the militias. In Baghdad, the Shiite-dominated police force has been accused of executing Sunni civilians, much as the Badr Brigade, a Shiite militia, has been accused of doing. In Basra, in the south, where several militias are believed to have infiltrated the police forces, the police have been accused of carrying out executions. One concern, expressed by Americans and Iraqis here, is that police officers still loyal to their militia commanders may pull the police forces apart if the militias come into conflict with the government, for instance, if Mr. Sadr, who has been relatively quiet in the past year, decides to take on the government again. There you have it: a round up of stories on the current state of Iraqi police and military. Almost as confusing as the Iraqi insurgency (and that is understandable, since some of the police and military ARE the insurgency). Now, can someone explain to me why we are staying in Iraq until the Iraqi army can “stand up” when only three years ago we were told we had to invade because this military and their commander were so dangerous? And, whom does the Iraqi army have to “stand up” to? the "Iraqi anti-Iraqi forces", maybe? Do we have a couple of loose nukes we could give them so that next time we invade we know for sure that they have WMDs? Okay, that's a really bad idea, but it does demonstrate where trying to make sense of this optional war for imaginary WMDs will lead. Oh, I forgot: we are bringing them "freedom and democracy". Well, whoever said that the grave does not bring you freedom from your earthly cares and that death isn't democratic, since it comes to all one day. (Can't come soon enough for some people, I say.) I give up on trying to be logical here. – Susan


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