New Report Cites Progress, Challenges for Iraqi Police Force
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 26, 2005 A new report on training of police forces in Iraq shows steady progress but identifies areas that need improvement, including the process used to vet members into the force, Larry Di Rita, the Defense Department's top spokesman, told Pentagon reporters today.
The report, compiled jointly by the inspectors general of the Departments of Defense and State and released July 25, was conducted to evaluate U.S.-government funded programs for training and equipping the Iraqi Police Service and the effectiveness of coordination and cooperation between the two departments in developing and implementing the training. It assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. government program to train Iraqi police, based on interviews with officials, instructors and trainees and direct observation of training in Jordan and Iraq.
The report cites successes in the programs, noting that Iraqi police performed well during the January elections and are increasingly visible on Iraq's streets, Di Rita told reporters. In addition, he said, polls also indicate growing public respect for and confidence in the police force.
So far, 93,800 Ministry of Interior forces are trained and equipped, including 63,500 Iraqi police. Ultimately, the Iraqi police force is expected to grow to 135,000, the report said.
The report notes that training for these forces is high-quality, involving international trainers in both Jordan and Iraq, and that Iraqi instructors are playing an increasing role in the training.
A new Police Partnership Program, which pairs coalition mentors with Iraqi security managers at national, provincial and local levels, is designed to help share experience and expertise with the Iraqis to improve law enforcement and security operations, defense officials said.
"The training takes place in a number of locations and is fairly professional, and it is getting better all the time," Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Conway, the Joint Staff's operations director, told the reporters.
But Di Rita acknowledged the progress is "uneven," with Iraqi police more capable in certain areas of Iraq than in others, just as is the case with Iraqi military forces.
The report also stipulated areas where improvement is needed, and offered 30 recommendations, many of which Di Rita said already have been initiated since April, the cut-off date for information in the report.
Many of the key recommendations aim to improve the vetting process for police recruits. The best people to conduct this vetting, Conway said, "are the Iraqi leadership and established Iraqi police force cadre that helps with the training."
That effort already is getting better, he said, and there's growing recognition of the importance of this process, he said.
"I think we all realize that in an insurgency, the police are going to play, if not the dominant role, certainly a critically important one, so it's in everybody's best interest that they be as good as we can possibly help to make them, in conjunction with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior," Conway said.