Troops Push Iraqis To Grasp Security Mission




 
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Troops Push Iraqis To Grasp Security Mission
 
April 17th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Troops Push Iraqis To Grasp Security Mission


Troops Push Iraqis To Grasp Security Mission
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
April 16, 2007
Pg. 1

By Moni Basu
Tal Afar, Iraq -- A suicide truck bomber kills 152 people in a Shiite neighborhood. Later that night, 47 Sunni men are executed as payback. Among the gunmen are Shiite police.
In the tense days that follow, U.S. Capt. Todd Hopkins and his commander visit the office of Staff Gen. Ibrahim al-Jibouri, the Iraqi police commander installed after the night of madness. The prior chief simply quit.
Al-Jibouri knows why the Americans have come.
"I'm going to bring up a touchy subject," Hopkins says. "I need to know how the investigations are going for the civilians who were killed."
Police involvement in the reprisal murders is a big setback for Hopkins and his Florida Army National Guard company that has been training Iraqi police in western Ninevah province for eight months. Hopkins must ensure that the Shiite-dominated police force does everything in its power to quickly heal the wounds.
Al-Jibouri assures Hopkins that a committee has been formed to look into the shooting rampage. He says several suspects have been detained. A few bad men have tarnished the reputation of his force.
"Whoever is convicted will be sent to jail," he tells Hopkins.
"That's exactly how it needs to be, saidi," Hopkins says, using the Arabic word for sir. "The citizens of Tal Afar need to understand whoever does wrong will be judged."
No one has the answers on how to keep security forces clean of sectarian influences. Or how to gain the trust of civilians -- and each other.
No police officer, the American soldiers tell the beleaguered Iraqi commander, can take the law into his own hands.
Words, however, don't always change attitudes. Yet today, words are all Hopkins has.
A vital link
Men like Hopkins are a critical component for America's exit strategy from Iraq. The U.S. military has first to find a way to stop the violence and then make sure that the Iraqis will be able to keep the peace after the Americans leave.
It's an easy concept to grasp, says Hopkins, but an immensely difficult one to execute.
U.S. soldiers as well as Iraqi leaders trace part of the problem back to Order No. 2, issued by the Coalitional Provisional Authority on May 23, 2003. It disbanded the Iraqi military. Those who wore the uniform under Saddam Hussein were sent home, without pay.
The consequences of Order No. 2 are hotly debated -- some argue Iraq's insecurity blossomed because of it. What's certain is that the U.S. military had to build a local security force from scratch in the middle of a complex conflict.
In 2004, the U.S. Army began designating transition teams solely charged with training and advising the Iraqis. About 5,000 U.S. soldiers are currently in that role in Iraq. Maj. Daniel Rice is one of them.
Rice, born and raised in Atlanta, arrived in Iraq only weeks ago after a 60-day course at Fort Riley, Kan. One of his goals is to teach the Iraqi Border Patrol how to work alongside the Iraqi army and local police -- and how to trust one another.
In Ninevah, the Iraqi army has roughly 7,000 soldiers; the border patrol has another 2,000. The police force has about 4,000 men. Together, they must battle insurgents and block border smuggling in an ethnically mixed part of Iraq near Syria.
Will confiscate AK-47s
On a recent day, Rice and his team drive to a border patrol compound near the base of the Sinjar Mountains. It's not uncommon for members of the border patrol to abandon their jobs without turning in their weapons. Today, Rice wants the commanders to confiscate missing AK-47 rifles.
Rice wants the border patrol to work with Ziad Lahso, a young Iraqi army lieutenant, and a handful of Iraqi soldiers. Even though they have been notified beforehand about the mission, the border squad is not ready to roll. Rice says he finds the Iraqis lack motivation and discipline.
"If we show up, then they do their job," he says. But he also understands Iraqi frustration. "We know we will have all we need for a mission -- fuel, equipment, protection," Rice says. "They don't."
Eventually, the Iraqis pile into the bed of a pickup truck, their faces covered by ski masks for fear of identification. Rice's team follows them as they race through terraced hillsides to small-town police stations.
Rice knows it's overkill to have so many men engaged in what is a simple mission. But it forces the Iraqi security forces to work together.
"The citizens here see U.S. Army, the IA, IBP and IP together," Rice says, using common abbreviations for Iraqi army, Iraqi Border Patrol and Iraqi police. "It adds legitimacy."
The Iraqis round up four AK-47s and ammunition at the targeted houses.
"Getting the weapons is nice, but that's not what this is about today," Rice says.
Gen. Sattam Saleh of the border patrol predicts it will be at least two years before the Iraqis can do the job alone.
Rice doesn't "have any illusions that it's going to happen overnight." He just wants to set an example for his Iraqi counterparts. If he can influence one or two men "to do the right thing," he will be satisfied.
Rice was an Army aviator who did a tour in Iraq in 2003 with the 101st Airborne Division. Back then, the U.S. military was the sole authority here. It's encouraging, he says, to see Iraqis start taking control.
In western Ninevah province, the security forces are a ragtag army put together with hand-me-down uniforms and weapons. Police walk about Tal Afar, the largest town in this district, in sandals.
In his meeting with Hopkins, al-Jibouri lodges his complaints. He needs heavier machine guns, bomb-detection devices, body armor and even helmets for his men.
"The [government] system is completely broken," Hopkins says. "If we leave now, logistically, they will be shut down in 30 to 60 days."
Lt. Col. Malcolm Frost, the commander of 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, which is in charge of this region, says Americans back home mistakenly think "we can instantly change Iraq."
"These people lived under a centrist, socialist system for decades," he says. "For us, it's easy -- we wire money, we write checks. Here, it's a cash-based society. It's taking time to build the right bureaucracy."
A teaching mission
In his time here, Hopkins has tried to make the Iraqis understand a method of law enforcement absent under Hussein's authoritarian rule. The classes the Americans teach focus on community policing -- emphasizing that police are here to serve the people, not control them. The officers are encouraged to get out of their vehicles and talk to residents, not just drive by brandishing weapons.
Al-Jibouri tells Hopkins he would like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to visit Tal Afar. "I have a lot of needs. I have a list," he says.
The frustration in al-Jibouri's voice is apparent. He tells the Americans that he will do all he can to clean up his police force. But how do you keep a man -- be it a police officer or schoolteacher -- from being honest one day and an insurgent the next when there is so much unemployment?
A man will take $100 to provide information to the bad guys, al-Jibouri explains. Then the insurgents go back and give him $200 to buy weapons. Eventually, they entice him with $1,000 to plant an improvised explosive device.
The Americans have no good reply for al-Jibouri.
Frost acknowledges the challenge of establishing long-term security in Iraq goes beyond the army and the police to addressing poverty and discontent.
"The key is reconstruction," Frost says. "And that takes a lot of time and a lot of money. "We cannot leave Tal Afar and western Ninevah until there is irreversible momentum on the path to long-term security. What does that look like, smell like, feel like? I cannot tell you. But I'll know when it happens."
U.S. soldiers believe trust is what holds an army together.
Al-Jibouri says it's the greatest lesson the Americans have imparted. In Tal Afar, that fragile trust was shattered by recent violence, making the road ahead that much more difficult.
Hopkins shakes al-Jibouri's hand. The young officer from Mount Dora, Fla., assures the Iraqi police commander that he has faith in him.
Tal Afar will get better, Hopkins tells him. Then the American utters a common phrase here: "Inshallah."
It means "God willing."
 


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