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Iraqi Security Forces

Yesterday's Financial Times carried an update on the training of Iraqi security forces. John Reed, Police recruits thrust into Iraq's front line, Financial Times, 12/11/04:

The US-led military coalition has long identified training of Iraqi security forces, led countrywide by American Lt Gen David Petraeus, as a priority. But the issue of police preparedness has gained new urgency with the approach of next month's national election, which Iraqi and foreign officials expect will see an upsurge of violence. Police, along with the Iraqi national guard, will be deployed to guard the 10,000 polling stations. For fear of tarnishing the vote's credibility, coalition forces will keep their distance.

With elections in mind, Apache's curriculum includes a course on public order, which about 2,200 officers have completed. The alarmingly realistic scenario enacted for guests this week saw a crowd of a dozen "demonstrators" pelt bricks and petrol bombs at police. Forming an orderly phalanx protected by plastic shields, the officers pushed the demonstrators back before subduing troublemakers in headlocks.

Even as the foreign advisers push ready-made solutions, Iraqi police admit they are overwhelmed. Iraq's interim government, when it assumed power from the coalition in June, inherited a force largely assembled by the multinational forces with little screening of recruits. Officials are now working through a vetting exercise aimed at purging criminals from police ranks. In recent months they have stepped up training courses like the one at Apache, and recruited aggressively from former members of Mr Hussein's army to form new elite units.

But some units still complain of shortages of equipment or ammunition, supported by anecdotes of insurgents outgunning police.

Police regularly come under pressure from political factions or criminal gangs to release suspects or refrain from investigations. Col Karim Kareem, an Apache spokesman, says the problem stems from the weakness of Iraq's interim political authority. "People think the government is not so strong and the law cannot be applied."


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