Security Transition Command Makes Progress in Iraq
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 8, 2009 Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq is working toward its mission to assist the Iraqi Interior Ministry in generating a professional and credible police force, one of the command’s deputy commanders said today.
The command also is helping the ministry develop institutional capacity to acquire, train, develop, manage, sustain and resource those forces, Army Maj. Gen. James Milano, deputy commander of the MNSTC-I’s interior affairs directorate, said in a Pentagon news conference.
“What we and the Iraqis are striving for is a condition known as police primacy,” he said. “Under police primacy, the Iraqi police forces will have primary responsibility for internal security, under civilian control, in accordance with the constitution and consistent with the rule of law.”
Milano said he has seen firsthand the progress the Iraqis have made toward their goals, from the highest leadership levels at the ministry to the officers on the beat at more than 1,200 local police stations across Iraq.
Adding to their capabilities are a host of specialized forces, such as national police, border enforcement, oil police, the Coastal Border Guard and the Facility Protection Service, as well as important institutional bodies such as the Criminal Investigations Directorate, internal affairs, inspector general and professional training academies, he added.
“All are seeing continued improvement and development,” Milano said. “As a consequence, public trust and support for the police are growing.” He cited an ABC/BBC poll in which 74 percent of Iraqis said they have confidence in the police, up from 64 percent in 2007 and 46 percent in 2003. Eighty-five percent now view their local security situation as good or very good -- nearly double the rate from two years ago.
But, Milano said, much remains to do. While the ministry has made significant improvements in fighting corruption and has implemented several initiatives, it’s not finished with this effort.
These efforts include auditing personnel through a vetting system, conducting background checks on employees qualified for security clearances and increasing the number of inspectors general with advanced training. Milan also remarked on the increased throughput in the Interior Ministry’s court system.
“We've seen almost 3,000 cases reviewed since the court system began reviewing cases last August,” he said. “So I'm confident we're making good progress in addressing the corruption issue.”
Milano underscored his command’s commitment to building on that progress.
“You can see there's a lot of work left to be completed,” he said. “My advisors and I are fully committed to continuing to build police capacity and a capable Ministry of Interior.”
“Candidly,” he noted, “the low-hanging fruit's been picked, and we're now reaching for the shiny apples near the top of the tree.”
“Producing a policeman or woman is easy when you compare that to the more challenging efforts, for example, of developing an evidentiary based criminal-justice system, of helping the ministry develop merit-based promotion systems and professional development programs and of developing an understanding of the benefits of a preventive maintenance program,” he said.
The U.S. and Iraqi governments have advanced to a new stage of enduring cooperation and partnership, and the United States remains committed to providing continued support, Milano said. “The security agreement and the strategic framework agreement are the centerpieces of our enduring partnership.”