Bush: U.S. Will Put Iraqi Police Training on Fast Track
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2006 The United States will push ongoing efforts to train more capable Iraqi police to provide internal security across the country, President Bush said here today.
U.S. commanders say Iraqi soldiers and police are gaining in numbers and capability to take on the terrorists, Bush told members of the Veterans for Foreign Wars. But more needs to be done, the president said.
"The Iraqi police still lag behind the army in training and capabilities," Bush said, "and so one of our major goals in 2006 is to accelerate the training of the Iraqi police."
Bush said efforts will focus on improving the performance of three categories of Iraqi police: the special police under the Interior Ministry, the border police, and the local municipality police.
The Interior Ministry's special police, now numbering around 19,000, are the most capable among Iraq's police forces, Bush said. However, some special police, he said, have been accused of committing abuses against Iraqi citizens.
"That's unacceptable to the United States government; that's unacceptable to the Iraqi government as well," Bush said, noting the special police must serve the people of a democratic Iraq and not settle scores with former enemies.
Special police will be required to undergo training on human rights and the meaning of the rule of law, Bush said. All nine Iraqi police academies, he said, will place added emphasis on personal and professional ethics. And U.S. battalions will partner with Iraqi special police units to provide mentoring, Bush said, as part of a program similar to one that succeeded with the Iraqi army.
"These U.S. forces will work with and train their Iraqi counterparts, helping them become more capable and professional, so they can serve and protect all the Iraqis without discrimination," Bush said.
Numbers of Iraqi border police, now at about 18,000, will be bolstered, Bush said, with the goal of having 28,000 border police trained and equipped by the end of the year. The border police will benefit from a new customs academy in Basra, Bush said, and will work with U.S. and coalition personnel, including experts from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The president said efforts also will focus on increasing the numbers of trained local Iraqi police, now at about 80,000 officers. The goal, he said, is 135,000 trained and equipped local police. Local police will be teamed with experienced U.S. and international police officers, Bush said, focusing on nine key cities that have seen intense fighting with terrorists.
"And by strengthening the local Iraqi police in these cities, we'll help them earn the confidence of the local population," Bush said, "which will make it easier for local leaders and residents to accelerate reconstruction and rebuild their lives."
Bush acknowledged that training the Iraqi police hasn't always gone without a hitch. "Yet, we're making progress," he said.
"As we bring more Iraqi police and soldiers online in the months ahead," Bush said, "we will increasingly shift our focus from generating new Iraqi forces to preparing Iraqis to take primary responsibility for the security of their own country."
More than 35 Iraqi army battalions have assumed control of territory, the president said, including almost half of Baghdad province.
"And in the year ahead we will continue handing more territory to Iraqi forces, with the goal of having the Iraqis in control of more territory than the coalition by the end of 2006," Bush said.