Focus Shifts from Recruitment to Quality for Iraqi Police
By Kristen Noel
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2008 Following the growth of Iraqi Interior Ministry forces from about 350,000 members to 410,000 in 2007, the coalition’s focus is shifting from police recruitment to improving overall operational quality, a senior officer said from Baghdad yesterday.
While the growth of the forces accounts for all functions under the ministry, success recruiting provincial-level Iraqi police last year makes up a significant portion of the increase, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael D. Jones, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq’s Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, told online journalists and “bloggers” in a teleconference.
A major development that helped facilitate the growth was increased ability to recruit in provinces where opposition to coalition efforts had been strong before local sheiks and other community leaders renounced al Qaeda, Jones said. For example, in the last six months of 2007, the Iraqi police force grew by about 8,000 in Anbar province, where recruitment previously had been difficult, he said.
Jones credited the development, in part, to more members of the Sunni population joining the police and national security forces.
“Last month, we graduated a class of national policemen almost 2,000 strong down at the Numaniya training center, and about 50 percent of those were Sunnis who had been recruited from (the) al Anbar, west Baghdad (and) Salahuddin areas,” he said.
The Iraqi police force is expected to remain about the same size through 2008, as long as violence levels stay at consistent levels, he said. So rather than continuing emphasis on force generation, the coalition and Iraq’s Interior Ministry plan to expand training, increase ministry spending on equipment and facilities, and stand up a sustainment brigade to improve the quality of police forces over the next year.
Italian forces set up a paramilitary police training camp in November, where they provide instruction on “very high-end” policing skills and leadership development, using their Carabinieri national police force as the model, Jones said. Iraqi national police battalions of about 450 members each are being rotated through the training one by one, he said.
Two national police battalions already have cycled through the new training camp, and a third battalion is set to begin the course next week, the general said.
“Many of the countries in this region have (a Carabinieri) force, and it appears to be valuable to them in terms of dealing with places where you have significant numbers of weapons and criminal elements,” he explained, “which is why I think the Iraqis are pursuing it and trying to really develop the capability.”
Jones also said the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s top budgetary priority for 2008 is to spend more on equipment and facilities for police forces. At the end of December, the ministry was granted permission from Iraq’s Council of Representatives to move about $420 million into foreign military sales accounts to purchase equipment, he said.
In addition, the growth and development of a sustainment brigade to provide maintenance, supply, transportation, and medical services to Iraqi police forces is an objective for the national police this year, he said.
The Iraqi national police already have about 425 people assigned to the sustainment brigade, Jones said, and it has some initial operating capability. “But, it’s pretty embryonic at this point,” he added.
(Kristen Noel works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)