Iraq Forces Suffer 'Setback' in Training

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
By SALLY BUZBEE - Associated Press Writer
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - (AP) The training of Iraqi
security forces has suffered a big "setback" in the last six months, with
the army and other forces being increasingly used to settle scores and make
other political gains, Iraqi Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer said Monday.
Al-Yawer disputed contentions by U.S. officials, including President
Bush, that the training of security forces was gathering speed, resulting in
more professional troops.
Bush has said the United States will not pull out of Iraq until
Iraq's own forces can maintain security. In a speech last week, he said
Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly capable of securing the country.
Al-Yawer, a Sunni moderate, said he agreed the United States cannot
pull out now because "there will be a huge vacuum," leaving Iraq in danger
of falling into civil war. In particular, armed Shiite militias in the south
might try to incite war if U.S.-led coalition forces leave, he said in an
interview with The Associated Press and a U.S. newspaper at a conference
"I wish it were that simple," he said of calls to set a timetable
for withdrawal or a drawdown.
But al-Yawer said recent allegations that Interior Ministry security
forces _ dominated by Shiites _ have tortured Sunni detainees were evidence
that many forces are increasingly politicized and sectarian. Some of the
recently trained Iraqi forces focus on settling scores and other political
goals rather than maintaining security, he said.
In addition, some Iraqi military commanders have been dismissed for
political reasons, rather than judged on merit, he said.
He said the army _ also dominated by Shiites _ is conducting raids
against villages and towns in Sunni and mixed areas of Iraq, rather than
targeting specific insurgents _ a tactic he said reminded many Sunnis of
Saddam Hussein-era raids.
"Saddam used to raid villages," using security forces, he said.
"This is not the way to do it."
Al-Yawer also expressed grave concern that Iraqi army units might
use intimidation to try to keep Sunni voters from the polls during the
country's crucial Dec. 15 general election.
American officials _ and Sunni moderates like al-Yawer _ are trying
to persuade Sunnis to go to the polls, hoping that if they gain a sizable
chunk of parliament, Sunnis will abandon support for the insurgency.
Al-Yawer said many Sunnis want to vote. But he noted that both
intimidation and voter fraud occurred during the Oct. 15 constitutional
referendum, and complaints to the Iraqi Electoral Commission and U.N. voting
advisers went nowhere, he said.
His supporters have made a series of requests to ensure a fair vote
this time, including changes to the electoral commission and adequate
numbers of polling stations and ballots in Sunni areas, he said. Most
importantly, they have asked that U.S.-led coalition forces, and not Iraqi
army troops, guard polling stations, he said.
Many outside experts have expressed concern that Iraqi security
forces will actually increase tensions if they guard Sunni areas, rather
than keep order. Al-Yawer did not specifically say that Shiites make up too
much of the army, but said he would like to see more political and sectarian
balance _ especially among the officer corps.
Al-Yawer, running on a slate of secular candidates along with former
Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, also said he believes the Saddam trial
also should be postponed until after the Dec. 15 election so Iraqis can
focus on the election.
He expressed frustration with the trial so far, saying it is giving
Saddam an opportunity to grandstand and appear sympathetic.