Iraq Stumbling in Bid to Purge Its Rogue Police




 
--
Boots
 
September 17th, 2006  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Iraq Stumbling in Bid to Purge Its Rogue Police


Good article, but couldn't post it all here. for the entire article, go here
http://freeinternetpress.com/story.php?sid=8483

Media: The New York Times
Byline: Edward Wong and Paul von Zielbauer
Date: 16 September 2006

Shiite militiamen and criminals entrenched throughout Iraq's police and
internal security forces are blocking recent efforts by some Iraqi leaders
and the American military to root them out, a step critical to winning the
trust of skeptical Sunni Arabs and quelling the sectarian conflict, Iraqi
and Western officials say.

The new interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, who oversees the police, lacks
the political support to purge many of the worst offenders, including senior
managers who tolerated or encouraged the infiltration of Shiite militias
into the police under the previous government, according to interviews with
more than a dozen officials who work with the ministry and the police.

No one expected a housecleaning to be easy, and some headway has been made
in firing people. But despite that progress, recent difficulties reveal the
magnitude of the task facing Mr. Bolani and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal
al-Maliki. When he took office in late May, Mr. Maliki said one of his top
goals was to reform the Shiite-led Interior Ministry, which had, to the
minority Sunni Arabs, become synonymous with government complicity in
abduction, torture and killing.

The ministry recently discovered that more than 1,200 policemen and other
employees had been convicted years ago of murder, rape and other violent
crimes, said a Western diplomat who has close contact with the ministry.
Some were even on death row. Few have been fired.

Despite the importance American commanders place on hiring more Sunni Arabs
for the overwhelmingly Shiite police force, the ministry still has no way to
screen recruits by sect or for militia allegiance. Such loyalties are the
root cause of the ministry's problems.

A senior American commander said that of the 27 paramilitary police
battalions, "we think 5 or 6 battalions probably have leaders that have led
that part of the organization in a way that is either criminal or sectarian
or both."

Death squads in uniforms could be responsible for the recent surge in
sectarian violence, with at least 165 bodies found across Baghdad since
Wednesday.

There is little accountability. The government has stopped allowing joint
Iraqi and American teams to inspect Iraqi prisons. No senior ministry
officials have been prosecuted on charges of detainee mistreatment, in spite
of fresh discoveries of abuse and torture, including a little-reported case
involving children packed into a prison of more than 1,400 inmates. Internal
investigations into secret prisons, corruption and other potential criminal
activity are often blocked.

The Americans view an overhaul of the Ministry of the Interior as a crucial
step in helping rein in the growing sectarian conflict.

"I think there are some definite issues in the M.O.I.," Lt. Gen. Peter W.
Chiarelli, the second-ranking commander in Iraq, said in an interview. "I
think there probably needs to be some leadership changes. But I know the
minister of interior himself is working those."

Mr. Bolani, a Shiite engineer appointed last May, sincerely wants to purge
the ministry of Shiite partisans brought in by his predecessor, the
officials interviewed said. But his independence from powerful Shiite
political leaders - the very quality that earned him the job - also means
Mr. Bolani has limited power to remove politically connected subordinates
and enact changes.

"He's got to be careful about what he does, just to stay alive," the Western
diplomat said.

An American adviser to the ministry said Mr. Bolani was unavailable for an
interview last week.

A New Security Plan

Some tentative progress has been made under the new government. Death squads
in police uniforms no longer kidnap and kill with absolute impunity in parts
of Sunni-dominated western Baghdad, many Iraqis say. The American military
estimates there was a 52 percent drop in the daily rate of execution-style
killings from July to August.

Officials attribute the decline to a new Baghdad security plan, more police
oversight by American trainers and policy changes in the ministry. Military
officials say the killings in the past week took place in neighborhoods not
yet cleared out by security sweeps and are not necessarily the work of
policemen - imposters are rife throughout Iraq.

"The performance has improved slightly," said Ayad al-Samarraie, a
legislator and senior official in the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Arab
group that is sharply critical of the Interior Ministry. "Less people are
kidnapped, and there are less raids by the militias on the people."

Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said the
ministry had fired 1,500 employees since June. They include senior officers
like the police chief of Anbar Province. Mr. Bolani is pushing to enact a
law that would ban the ministry's 167,000 employees from belonging to a
political party.

Yet, a powerful official suspected of aiding the Shiite militias, Adnan
al-Asadi - nicknamed Triple A by the Americans - still holds the job of
deputy minister of administration. Mr. Asadi is "the one who really runs the
M.O.I.," said Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni Arab legislator. Mr. Bolani wants to
oust Mr. Asadi but does not have the political backing to do so, leaving
American advisers frustrated, said an American official who was not
authorized to talk publicly on the subject and spoke on the condition of
anonymity.

Mr. Asadi supports the ministry's inspector general, whom the advisers
consider wholly ineffective. American advisers set up an internal affairs
unit late last year to conduct honest in-house inquiries. But the two
offices feud, and the internal affairs unit lacks full authority to
investigate the police in the provinces.

A recent fingerprinting campaign throughout the ministry showed that 1,228
police officers and ministry employees had been convicted of violent crimes
under Saddam Hussein's government, said the Western diplomat, who spoke only
on the condition of anonymity because of protocol. A handful had been
sentenced to death.

"These are rapists, murderers, drug dealers," the diplomat said. "The
impression I got is that there are a lot more out there."

Mr. Bolani has said he intends to fire some of them. But a complete purging
of the ministry's most criminally violent employees is impossible, the
diplomat said, because "they're going to go straight to the militias, or set
up their own criminal gangs."

Even top Pentagon officials now acknowledge the ministry's deeply rooted
dysfunctions. "Corruption, illegal activity and sectarian bias have
constrained progress in developing M.O.I. forces," according to a Pentagon
report issued to Congress at the end of August. "Inappropriate tolerance of
and infiltration by Shia militias, some of which are influenced by Iran, is
the primary concern of the government of Iraq."

Trouble With Elite Units

Since May, when Shiite politicians fought to keep control of the ministry
under the new government, the ministry's total force has grown to more than
167,000 from 146,000. It is divided into 118,000 regular police officers,
24,400 paramilitary troops and 24,700 border guards.

Of those, the paramilitary units now called the national police are the most
feared. Under Bayan Jabr, a conservative Shiite politician who was Mr.
Bolani's predecessor, fighters from the two most powerful Shiite militias,
the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army, were recruited into the ranks of
those elite units.

Assaults on civilians by gunmen in paramilitary uniforms have continued in
some predominantly Sunni or mixed areas of Baghdad.

A woman who asked to be identified as Umm Shahad said in an interview that
her 24-year-old son, a Sunni Arab, was recently taken from his car at a
checkpoint run by paramilitary officers in their neighborhood, Jihad. She
said she went to the unit's local stationhouse and to the Interior Ministry
to search for him. Officials at each place said they had no idea where he
was. "These were real commandos," she said of her son's abductors. "We are
so afraid."

Col. Damon Penn, the senior American adviser to the national police's
9,000-member Second Division, acknowledged that "there are still some
militias operating within the national police."

"I think there are some individuals and small cells that they need to purge
to make this a truly governmental force," he said. But progress had been
made, he insisted.

So suspect are the national police that the American military and Iraqi Army
began inspections of each battalion in August. The reviews include recording
the serial numbers of all national police weapons and vehicles. Twelve
battalions have already been inspected, and the rest are to be completed by
October, when the units will get new blue uniforms.

Each brigade will be pulled from the field and put through a six-week
training course in policing and the rule of law, Colonel Penn said.

Four of the eight police brigades are to be deployed soon from Baghdad to
the provinces, so building public confidence in them is critical.

Prisoner Abuse by the Police

The Iraqi and American inspectors assigned to the police prison known as
Site 4 found themselves walking through a chamber of horrors at the end of
May.

Continued here http://freeinternetpress.com/story.php?sid=8483
 


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