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DoD Press Briefing with Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson from the Pentagon

Presenters: Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, Civilian Police Assistance Training Team
October 06, 2006

(Maj. Gen. Peterson via teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq)

MR. WHITMAN: General Peterson, this is Bryan Whitman at the Pentagon.

GEN. PETERSON: Hi, Bryan. I can hear you loud and clear.

MR. WHITMAN: Very good. We can hear you good too. Well good afternoon and good morning to the press corps here in the Pentagon. Our briefer today is Major General Joe Peterson. He is the commander of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team in Iraq. He's been in that position since August of last year, and he's speaking to us today from Baghdad. And this is the first time that he's spoken to us and provided -- and is able to provide us with his assessment and update on the civilian police training from his important vantage point. I know he wants to give you a brief overview of what he's been doing and then get into some questions.

So General, let me just turn it over to you at this point.

GEN. PETERSON: Thank you very much. Great to be with you. As- salaam aleikum. Ramadan Kareem and good afternoon from Baghdad. I'm Major General Joe Peterson, commanding general of the Coalition Police Assistance -- Assistant Training Team here in Baghdad, and I've been here since last October. I thought I'd start off by first telling you a little bit about CPATT because not many people really understand us.

The CPATT mission is basically in partnership with the Iraqi government. We assist in developing and organizing the Ministry of Interior as an enduring institution. What we do is support the manning, training and equipping of Iraqi police forces and also provide leader training and professional development. All of this is in order to form a ministry that serves the people and is capable of providing a stable and a safe environment for the government and people of Iraq.

Now to do this CPATT has a little over a thousand people. This includes about 110 military -- that's army, air force, navy, marines, active and reserves -- and it also includes forces from Italy, El Salvador and the United Kingdom. But the majority of CPATT is basically 900 civilians, and of that 900, the majority are policemen anywhere within -- between five and eight years minimum of policing experience in the United States, and we also have a few State Department employees. That's pretty much the composition of CPATT.

What I'd like to do now is make sure you understand where we fit within the campaign plan. Principally, as you look at the campaign plan, we have now gone from partnership with the Iraqis to the Iraqi army in the lead for military security in the country of Iraq. Now, our primary mission in CPATT is to build civil security forces so that we can take the next step, and the next step is Iraqi -- from the Iraqi army in the lead for military security to the Ministry of Interior forces, the police forces of Iraq taking over civil security for this country.

As you know, the Iraqi army took over the lead for military security several weeks ago. But simultaneously, we also started to transition to civil security with the Muthanna province and also the Dhi Qar province a little over a week ago under provincial Iraqi control. So this is a simultaneous process, with the end result being that we would like to see civil security established here in the country of Iraq all within the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior and its forces.

Now I'd like to just give you a quick update. I know all of you have been provided the documents and the briefing slides I sent forward. But the bottom line -- CPATT right now is about 99 percent complete on its mission of training approximately 188,000 security forces, and those forces right now are about 82 percent equipped. We expect to exceed this goal by about 10,000 by year's end.

The Iraqi police forces right now, for example -- we will have trained the 135,000th Iraqi policeman by the middle of this month. It's all a very good success story, but this is really about putting quantity, putting the Iraqi policeman on the street with his equipment.

We have also this year in the Year of the Police tried to improve quality, and as such, we have dedicated about 6,000 coalition forces, and as a part of that, it's about 700 international police liaison officers -- these are the U.S. civil policemen who are part of those teams and embedded those teams within the police stations of the country of Iraq to improve the community policing skills. We will likely continue this process and emphasize this primarily in 2007, all again to try and build these operational skills in the police stations throughout all Iraq, and there are anywhere between a thousand and 1,100 police stations in Iraq.

From the standpoint of the institution itself, we continue to build ministerial capacity.

And we've had about -- we have now approximately a hundred personnel embedded in the ministry itself within the directorates and the deputy ministries of the Ministry of Interior, working with them to improve their capabilities and their capacity.

The minister has published a vision statement, he has a draft strategic directive that is about ready to be released, and all of the various directorates of the ministry have five-year plans that they've developed and are actually in execution. We see great progress and great growth in the ministry as it moves forward.

And then finally, from the standpoint of professional development, this year we instituted the first half of our officers professional development program, and next year the second half will be put in place, in addition to a noncommissioned officer professional development program. The real focus there is to build successive levels of leaders to assume successive levels of responsibility. Additionally, we have also this year started -- in fact, last week we started a three-year degree-producing officers police college in Baghdad, and we've got about 1036 police officer candidates currently going through that training.

From the standpoint of the way ahead for the CPATT and also for the Ministry of Interior, we will primarily be focusing on assisting the minister with his own reform that is focused primarily on loyalty, accountability and operational performance; secondly, continuing a national police transformation, which really is a subset of his MOI reform. And we started that process in August, and I'll talk to you more about that, certainly, in the question and answer period if you desire.

Another thing that's looming on the horizon now is FPS consolidation. It's Facilities Protection Services. There are about 158,000 FPS in the country of Iraq and they are spread across all of the ministries, 27 ministries, and eight independent organizations. So it's a very large organization and a very daunting task for the ministry.

The ministry has verbally been given a directive by the cabinet to initiate this process, but it has received no written guidance to date. But they certainly are starting to develop their plan for how to assume responsibility for this very large and disparate force.

Finally, certainly completing the professional development system -- but all of this is intended to build confidence in Ministry of Interior forces.

That's pretty much all I wanted to tell you right up front. I provide you just the baseline of where we're at, our primary focus, how we fit within the organization of Multinational Forces Iraq and our purpose, and hopefully, you have a fairly decent idea of status.

So with that in mind, I'll just go ahead and open up for questions.

MR. WHITMAN: We'll start with Lolita.

Q General, Lolita Baldor with the Associated Press. Earlier this week, you had to send -- a brigade had to be sent back for retraining, a brigade of Iraqi police. Does this suggest a broader problem within the police ranks? And you talked a little bit about building confidence. Doesn't this hurt your efforts to build confidence among the Iraqi people or even actually erode confidence in their police forces?

GEN. PETERSON: Actually, not. I really believe that the minister's decision to withdraw the 8th Brigade from their current mission in Baghdad and to put them in a training status is very, very positive. And it will grow confidence, not only in the ministry, but also its forces.

A lot of people do not understand really where all of this fits into the reform plan of the ministry. First of all, the 8th Brigade and its units were inspected in early August. There are three battalions in the brigade, and two of the battalions barely passed the inspection. In addition to that, we had some difficulty with the performance of that brigade on their specific missions within the Baghdad Security Plan. And so they demonstrated very poor performance in execution of their missions and potentially created a gap in the plan, the 4th Infantry Division MND-Baghdad is executing.

So if you take a look at that, if you take into consideration the fact that because of the results of the inspection itself, the battalion inspections that we did, that the brigade commander had been relieved of his responsibilities, and then you add to that the issues that we had with the 2nd Battalion commander -- who, by the way, has been arrested for possible complicity in the transgressions that were noted with regard to this organization or members of his organization executing an attack in an area that they were not authorized to be in -- you start getting an idea of why the minister pulled them off line. And the bottom line is he pulled them off line because the ministry lost confidence first in their ability to execute their mission, and then secondly because of their -- the leadership situation in the organization.

The minister felt that the rest of the forces of the battalions and brigades of the -- this 8th Brigade of the national police were at risk. So he did the right thing -- he pulled them all together, put them in their own garrison locations, and they will begin an intensive reorganization process here in another five days. And coupled with that, the minister has also directed a training program. The next step with regard to this brigade is that they will be the second brigade that will go through transformation training down in Numaniyah, where they will basically go through three weeks of police transformational training to improve their policing skills.

So from my perspective, although tied to some terrible events, the ministry took immediate action to address the issues. With regard to the event itself, it considered the bigger picture of the welfare and the training and the operational capabilities of the unit and withdrew that unit off of its mission, replacing it with, by the way, some other national police assets, Iraqi army assets and coalition assets.

I hope that answers your question.

Q Well, just as a follow-up then, do you believe this is an isolated incident or an isolated experience? Or is it a - an illustration of sectarian problems that could exist in other similar brigades?

GEN. PETERSON: Well, I considered it certainly an isolated incident. The minister has been concerned about two principal issues within the ministry -- corruption and sectarianism. He's very vigilant and also has taken action concerning both of these major focus areas for himself. We have not seen other actions of late tied to sectarianism. Although the minister realizes that within his ministry we do have individuals who joined the legitimate security forces of Iraq, but yet still maintained loyalties to militias. So that is an issue, and the minister, again, is focused on that and trying to weed out any individuals that can still be aligned with militias and sectarian violence.

MR. WHITMAN: Pamela.

Q General, this is Pam Hess with United Press International. Could you discuss a little bit more this issue of infiltration? How many militia members do you gather are in the Ministry of Interior forces? How many have been discovered and expelled so far, and what happens to them? What do you do after they're expelled? Don't they just go back and join a militia and become a bigger part of the problem?

GEN. PETERSON: Well, it's hard to really ascertain how many individuals within the national police forces, or any of the other ministry organizations, still maintain loyalties to militias. Certainly, if we asked the question, they won't respond that they are associated with any militias. So it's something, again, that we continually are looking for. We do ask the question, but obviously the response is always no. So I have no idea what the number is.

Certainly, once we identify them as someone that has been associated with a militia, it depends on what the specific circumstance is. If they have been identified with a militia and have also been found to be involved with criminal action, then certainly those people, those individuals are arrested and put into the legal system of the country of Iraq. Others who may have affiliations that we cannot tie directly to a crime are, in fact, released from the organization. But that's pretty much what happens right now.

And we're hoping, again, that as we take our brigades of the national police through this transformation training, that we will continue to target the importance of being loyal to country, to the constitution, and to the people of Iraq.

Q Can you give us a specific description of what it is particularly this 2nd Battalion commander did that got him arrested?

GEN. PETERSON: Well, the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Brigade has been implicated on a raid of a meat processing factory wherein 22 individuals -- it was a little over 20 individuals were kidnapped, and later, seven of them were found killed. Again, the commander, because the unit and the organization was identified as potentially being responsible for committing this transgression, has been arrested. And the organization is currently under investigation.

So that's pretty much where we are and what we know.

Q And the meat processing plant, why would that be attacked? Was it a Sunni processing plant? What -- why would that be a target?

GEN. PETERSON: What we know is the majority of people that were working in the plant were Sunni, and so potentially this could be a sectarian issue. It certainly is also a crime, and so that is being investigated right now. And again, if we see any ties to sectarianism or alignments of this organization in particular with militia organizations, then we'll try to identify those individuals who are involved.

Q What was the date of that raid, the date of the raid?

GEN. PETERSON: I think it's about a week ago now. I'm uncertain as to the exact date. I'm sorry I don't have that with me.

Q General, David Wood from the Baltimore Sun. Could you describe in this transformational training that you're now starting for the police how -- what kind of incentives do you give to police to not get involved in this kind of sectarian violence? In other words, it seems -- from here it seems like the infection of the police force by sectarian forces is pretty complete. How do you wean them away from that? What's the training involved?

GEN. PETERSON: First of all, again, the degree of infiltration is unknown. I can cite for you many, many incidences of police doing a great job in their communities, and these are Sunni- and Shi'a-mixed communities, and we see a lot of good things happening not only in Baghdad, but throughout the rest of Iraq.

Talk to you a little bit about transformational training. First of all, we're talking principally about the national police, and the national police organization's basically were formed and were primarily focused really on military tasks. And for the past two years plus, they've been performing more military-like tasks -- raids, cordon searches, those kinds of things. They went through about six weeks of training. They had about 15 hours to 20 hours of rule of law, protection of human rights training. But it was mixed on the amount of police training that they received.

Now, the national police force of Iraq is a paramilitary organization. It is an organization that is intended to bridge -- to provide a bridge between the police forces themselves and the Iraqi army, and I think for a long time this would be a key force for this nation. So we don't have to jump from policing immediately into the defense forces and army forces trying to provide stability in this country.

So what we identified was that the national police, one, had got less police training than our policemen and certainly needed to reblued, so to speak. And as such, we developed three weeks of focused police training for our national policemen. The cohort unit will be a brigade which consists of three battalions averaging anywhere between 1,700 and 2,100 national policemen. The focused training will be on police skills -- investigations, interrogations, preservation of crime scenes, things like democratic policing, rule of law, protection of human rights -- all of those key police kinds of subjects that are necessary for policemen to know and be aware of. And so that is the focus of that training. And during the course of the training, certainly again we emphasize loyalty to country, loyalty to the constitution and loyalty to people. So that's pretty much what it's all about, and it was definitely felt that it was necessary.

The phases of the transformation training started off in August with a battalion inspection, and that was focused on accountability of personnel, accountability of equipment, policies, procedures, organizations. And then coupled with that, we also did a leader assessment. All of those inspections were completed at the end of September, and we did our first senior leader review of the leader assessments. That led to one of the battalion commanders being replaced and one of the brigade commanders being relieved. The remaining battalions will be looked at here probably soon to determine if the minister and his senior leadership wants to make any further leadership changes.

The second phase is what I just talked to you about, the three weeks of training at Numaniyah. Now, that will be followed by additional training as part of our phase three, where we will then go back and establish a national police training center of excellence, where we will bring battalions of the national police and then train them and test them, give them -- no kidding -- an evaluation on their ability to accomplish all their missions, both military and also police, and we'll try to integrate the scenarios so as to work that. And by doing that and training one battalion a month, we'll be able to train all of the battalions of the division basically every two years.

We also are working with the carabinieri and NATO to try to get them to come in and do carabinieri-like training or gendarmerie-type training, focused on the leaders of the national police, since the carabinieri and gendarmerie certainly are paramilitary forces, and we're hoping that NATO will support us in this effort.

Certainly we've been working bilaterally with the Italians, and they are prepared to assist but have to do that within the NATO context.

And then finally, the third -- oh, correction, the fourth phase of all of this is a planned deployment of half of the national police brigades -- and there's a total of nine of them -- four of them will deploy outside of Baghdad to provide regional security and capability throughout Iraq. That's pretty much what the phases of the training and transformation is targeted on. And it is certainly our hope that through this process we'll not only increase the policing capabilities of our national policemen, but also improve their loyalty to this organization.

You talked a little bit about incentives. The minister's really focused on this. In fact, he has decided that for all policemen who complete the training in Numaniyah, he is giving them a bonus. And he has also done this throughout Iraq. For example, in the Al Anbar Province we have seen incredible progress throughout the Al Anbar, maybe not so apparent to you, but if you think a year ago what the status of the Al Anbar was, basically anarchy out there, we had al Qaeda and former regime elements that were dominating the region. We cleared the Euphrates River Valley and now have established military security, but now throughout the Al Anbar we start seeing -- we are starting to see police forces grow and take hold and perform their responsibilities admirably. And just last week the minister provided the policemen of Al Anbar a bonus for what they're doing out there.

So all of that, in my opinion, is very positive. The minister -- this minister, Minister Bulani, is more engaged with the provinces and the directors of police of each of the provinces and calls directly down into police stations to see how they're doing. So from my perspective, I see a lot of positive things occurring with policemen and police forces, and all of this will get after the issue of corruption and sectarianism within the forces of Iraq, or the Ministry of Interior forces of Iraq.

Q A quick follow-up. In this leader assessment you're talking of, that's just barely started, I take it, do you envision that there will be more people sacked?

GEN. PETERSON: I have to tell you that I am a member of the senior board, and so I am not aware of some of the assessments that have been made of the remaining battalions.

Certainly, there is a possibility that if the board decides that a unit commander, a battalion commander, or in fact their brigade commander, is not a suitable leader or doesn't demonstrate the qualities and the capabilities to lead his national policemen, then they will make that recommendation. I can tell you that based on the board's recommendation, the two individuals that I talked about were relieved and that was their exact recommendation. The minister reviewed the recommendations of the senior panel, which includes myself, a coalition -- United Kingdom major general, and also Major General Adnan Thabit, the commanding general of the national police itself. We reviewed the recommendations of the assessment board and then provided further recommendations to the minister himself, and he acted upon that. So it's a possibility. Right now I have no idea of the -- what the status was.

I would like to mention one more thing to you. The leaders are assessed and have been being assessed monthly by the coalition. But in addition to that, we do a quality of life survey, and this one is strictly run by U.S. and coalition forces itself, where we bring in, randomly, national policemen and question them as to the quality of life of the organization, question them as to the leadership capabilities of their battalion and brigade commanders. And that's how we make the determination. It's a combination of operational evaluations of leadership, and also this quality of life survey that we do with the members of the national police.

MR. WHITMAN: Our time has passed quickly, and we've come to the end of our allocated time for this.

So, General, I don't know -- I'll bring it to a close, but I will turn it back to you in case you wanted to have any closing comments.

GEN. PETERSON: Okay, thank you very much. I guess what I really want to tell you is this -- and sometimes there's some confusion relative to what really is happening relative to police development in the country of Iraq. First of all, it's a combination of building the numbers necessary to provide a safe and secure environment in the country of Iraq, and we have done that by using Rand studies to determine the right policeman-to-population ratios, and also have tempered our numbers based upon the contested areas. But we came up with that number of 188,000. And so we have worked very diligently over the past year to, in fact, build that force.

But that's only half of the strategy. That trains individuals; it gives them what they need to do their job. But the second half is operational, and that's these transition teams that I talked to you about, and they are embedded with policemen and police stations throughout Iraq.

That way collectively we can improve their skills and teach them truly how and what democratic policing is all about and what community policing is all about, and we see improvement everywhere our embeds are working with the police forces of the country of Iraq. So we do see great improvement among police forces.

If you think about it, a year ago we had a situation where a police station was attacked, and policemen were running out the backdoor leaving all the equipment. That does not occur anymore. Our policemen are more confident. They're led with more capable and confident leaders. They're better equipped, and they're fighting bad guys and they're staying in place. And they've paid a great price. Over -- since September of 2004, we've lost over 12,000 policemen to casualties; about 4,000 of that have been killed. But yet, on the other hand, Iraqis every day join up to be a part of these police forces. It really talks to their commitment, their resolve to be a part of this new government and to support their constitution and their commitment to wanting to be self-reliant and to have a democracy. I think that's a great thing.

And what I want you to know also is the ministry improves every day their ability to manage, to administer and to support their forces and also the people of Iraq. That's an important piece. So if you put together this equation, where we have a more functional ministry that is capable and then capable forces that we are continuing to grow, continuing to mentor, teach and coach down in their police stations. And I see great progress, and I believe you should be optimistic about that.

And then, finally, we have a minister that has the will and has the character to do what's right. When he identified the problem in the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Brigade, he took immediate action. He is decisive. He is also fair. He's nonsectarian, and he focused on the unity of Iraq and doing what's right for the people of Iraq. All of these things coupled together make me very optimistic as to the capabilities of the Ministry of Interior, and I see great growth. Yes, there are problems out there, but I believe with the leadership that we have and his resolve and the quality of the people that exists throughout the organization, this country and this ministry can be successful.

Thank you for the opportunity to address you. I'm sorry I didn't get to answer a lot of questions, but hopefully you have a better perspective, at least my perspective, on where we are today with the Ministry of Interior and its forces.

MR. WHITMAN: Well, thank you, General. It is a vitally important topic, and we look forward to having you perhaps in the near term come back and talk to us again about what you're doing to help the Iraqis build this capability and capacity.

GEN. PETERSON: Thank you very much.


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