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Iraqi Police Having Positive Impact, Official Says

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2006 – Iraqi police forces have been well trained and are making a positive contribution to the country, U.S. military officials said.

"It's a humbling experience to see what the national police are doing on behalf of the good people of Iraq, and it's a rewarding experience to contribute to their success and to be part of their continued growth and improvement," U.S. Army Col. Gordon "Skip" Davis said. He is head of the American-led public order special police transition teams and spoke in a briefing from Baghdad today.

The teams have been working with the Iraqi Public Order Special Police for nearly 11 months. They coach, train, teach, mentor and advise the Iraqi police, Davis said.

"Each of the 17 teams I command consists of 11 U.S. servicemen, including soldiers, sailors and Marines, and up to four Iraqi interpreters," he said.

The national public order police are "high-end national police," and differ from other police units primarily in their mission. They focus on counterterrorism, counterinsurgency threats, and anything that goes beyond what local Iraqi stations or patrol police can deal with, Davis said.

"The public order division typically accomplishes its mission by conducting raids, cordon-and-search operations, providing area and fixed-site security, and reinforcing local police," he said. "Each of the public order's four brigades has three battalions, a combat support company and a headquarters and support company."

The current total of 9,000 public order police includes 1,100 cadets who just graduated from a six-week training course, Davis said.

"The authorized goal is just under 10,600. So you can see with 9,000, we're over the 80 percent mark, and we believe that certainly by early summer we'll have our full manning," he said.

The public order forces have had long-term deployments in hot spots like Fallujah and Samarra, as well as throughout Baghdad. They operate both independently and in concert with coalition forces and other Iraqi security forces, Davis said.

When asked if Shiia elements within the Iraqi government and police had carried out vigilante and other ethnic-based attacks against Sunnis, driving more Sunnis onto the side of the insurgency, Davis said that this had not been the case with the public order police because it is a mixed formation.

"We have both Shiia and Sunni. As of right now, the public order division is roughly just under 80 percent Shiia and 20 percent Sunni, and a very small percentage of Kurds and Christians and some others," he said. "So within the public order police specifically, we haven't seen that kind of specific sectarian-based type of targeting."

Davis made the point that the make-up of the public order police is roughly equivalent to Iraqi society as a whole.

Davis noted the bonds that have formed among the public order national police, the other Iraqi security forces and coalition forces. "We are all serving our respective countries and the good people of Iraq for one common goal -- a free and secure Iraq with a government that's representative and accountable to its people," he said.

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