Press Briefing, August 30, 2007
BRIEFING BY BRIG. GENERAL MICHAEL JONES, THE NEW CIVILIAN POLICE ASSISTANCE TRAINING TEAM COMMANDING GENERAL.
TOPIC: A MEDIA ROUNDTABLE TO INTRODUCE HIMSELF AND DISCUSS THE CHANGES HE'S SEEN IN THE IRAQI POLICE FORCES.
LOCATION: COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ.
DATE: THURSDAY, AUGUST 30, 2007.
GEN. JONES: [inaudible] As-salaam aleikum. It's very good to see all of you today. My name is Mike Jones and I'm the commander of the civilian police assistance training team and I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you today. I've been back in Iraqi now for, this is my sixth week after being gone for two years or so, a little bit more than two years where I previously served a tour here. And I thought I would start off with just an opening by giving you a few observations about what I've seen since I've been back in Iraq.
The first thing that I'll point out is that it's been a very interesting experience for me to return. It's kind of like how in the United States often times grandparents live a long ways away from the family. And so if you have a brother or sister as you growing up together, you really don't notice the fact that you're changing because you see each other everyday and as things change, you really don't notice. But grandparents who only see their grandchildren every now and then they notice how much they change quite a bit. And I almost feel like that coming back to Iraq from having been here previously and seeing where things are today compared to where they were a couple of years ago.
I've been privileged in the first few weeks here to travel around to various places where I've seen the police in a variety of forms. I haven't see all of it by any means. It's just a small sampling. But what I have seen has been very interesting. For instance, one of the things I've noticed is when I was here last time, most police training was being conducted by either Coalition forces or international police advisors. In the places that I've gone, since I've been back, I've been very pleased to see the training is being conducted by Iraqi police officers. So they're the instructors and they're the leaders who are training the new policemen as well as training the officer policemen. So that's a very good development in my view.
I also see that the equipment that the police have is actually much more plentiful and also of a higher quality. So that's been a good thing to see. Interestingly in terms of equipment, the other thing that I've seen is that when I here before, most of the equipment was being acquired and distributed by the Coalition. In fact, when I was here, basically all of it was being done that way. And today I see the ministry of interior distributing equipment primarily, not principally the Coalition forces. So, it's been a very big change from that perspective.
I see in different places that I go at the academies and other places where the Iraqi leadership is taking increasing control of things such as the facilities and the life support and those kinds of things. So that's a good development as well.
I think in many areas in terms of institutional procedures the ministry of interior has made significant progress doing things that they weren't doing when I was here previously. One very interesting area is the introduction of the concept of internal affairs in a very active internal affairs organization inside the ministry of interior. And that organization is doing a significant number of investigations which attempt to find corruption and bad behavior. They not only have conducted quite a few investigation, they've also found quite a few people guilty, and either punished or fired people for illegal acts or for bad behavior. So that's also a very good amount of progress.
And I could go on but I want to get to your questions as quickly as possible. So I'll just say a couple more things. One thing is I've seen this tremendous progress that has occurred but at the same time I understand that there are still many, many challenges. So I wouldn't want to try to make it seem like the road ahead is easy or there are not many difficulties to overcome, but it's a long road. And I think what my observation is, despite the fact that it is a long road, we've seen some significant progress that's occurred in trying to move down that.
The last thing is there are a couple of things that have not changed very interestingly. And the first thing that hasn't changed is the willingness of Iraqis to serve with a great deal of courage in fact and the fact that we are recruiting a significant number of new police that these new men are very willing to serve, they want to serve their country, they want to serve their communities is just as strong if not stronger than its ever been. And I'm very pleased to see that. And the other thing that hasn't changed is the determination of these Iraqi policemen to want to change the security environment to make it a secure place. And that goes from senior officials down to shirt policemen who are often serving at great personal risk to themselves and their families but who willingly go out there, take those risks in order to try to make their communities a better place. So with that again I'm very, very happy to be here back in Iraq, back in Baghdad and I look forward to answering your questions.
Are there any questions?
Q There are some problems facing the Iraqi security forces like the sectarian and the partisan allegiance. What's your plans to get rid of this problem? And there is some persons misconduct by some policemen who consider themselves investigators in the police stations and there are many detainees and these detainees were not referred to courts. No charges were leveled against them.
GEN. JONES: Well I understand the question correctly, it's how will the Iraqis address two kind of issues. I think one is sectarianism or behavior based on sectarian reasons and the other is an issue of corruption. If I understood the question correctly.
The first, I would just say that there are a couple of things. The first is the introduction of this internal affairs organization inside the ministry is a very important development that I think is significant. I talked to the head of that organization last week as he reviewed the cases that he had started. When they have reports of corruption or reports of bad behavior, they initiate an investigation. Then they make a determination whether or not that's founded. You know, quite often what we find is there are alligations that are made by people for lots of reasons. It may be because there really is wrongdoing or sometimes we find there are false alligations made that or there is a rumor of something that happened. So it's very important that a good investigation be conducted. Then once the investigation is conducted, if it's founded, there are several different things that can happen. Some is if it's at a certain level of seriousness the person may be just fired. For higher levels of seriousness, they may in fact be punished. And both of those things are going on.
I'll give another example of something that I've seen and this regards the national police. In the case of the national police, they have done a significant amount of changing because of improper behavior or poor leadership. In the case of national police, nine of the nine brigade commanders have been fired and replaced. The majority of the battalion commanders have been fired and replaced. Because these people were either not performing to the level they should or because they had acts of inappropriate behavior occurring in their units. And so, those are just indications that this is going on. Again I think there is quite a bit of work to be done. I don't think anyone would say that corruption has been eliminated or that bad behavior has been eliminated. But I think there are signs that the issue is being addressed. In the, in time with continued perseverance, we'll the situation get significantly better. Thank you.
Q Is the minister of interior still infiltrated by the militias and is there any national balance inside the interior ministry? I mean the percentage of the officers from all sects like Sunnis and Shiites.
GEN. JONES: Right. Two questions I believe. One is the issue of infiltration by militias and the second is on balance. Let me talk to the second one first. In terms of my experience so far, a meeting of variety of leaders what I've seen in the ministry amongst the leadership is there is a significant number of different types of people in terms of where they come from, what sect they're with and so forth. Whether it's balanced or not, I'm not sure. I just know there's a variety of Sunni, Shia, Turkman you know lot's of people from different places. I think that inside some of the national forces I think you'll see that there probably is an imbalance. Now part of that may be because there are portions of the population who elected not to participate when the recruiting was going on that they didn't volunteer. But I think that we've seen a significant change in that. Just recently I know that we've added over 8,000 police to the rolls in Al Anbar Province which is primarily Sunni. Here in Baghdad I know that there are almost 2,000 volunteers who have a Sunni background that have volunteered and have been hired as policemen here and I'm sure there'll be more. But that reflects a change in the attitude of certain communities. Now one thing about the balance that I think you will see that makes the police a little different than the army is the police will normally kind of be similar to the community that they serve in when it comes the average provincial police force and that is most policemen serve locally. They don't join the police force and then go to another city. And so for the most part, the composition of a police force will look like whatever the composition of that city is. Here in Baghdad I think you're going to see a mix because that's kind of the reflection of the population. You would have a different composition in say Basrah than you would have in Ramadi. So it will change. And I think that's probably appropriate. But at the national level I've seen amongst the leadership that there is a mix and I think in the national police forces right now they're imbalanced but with more volunteers I think that that will change as well. Okay. Yes sir?
Q How do you explain the weapons going from the Iraqi police to the militias? And who is responsible for the smuggling of these weapons to the militias? And do you have any solutions to this problem?
GEN. JONES: I'm not sure I understand the background. I know there's been some reporting. I think there was an investigation about the fact that in the early days here that there were weapons that were issued and the accountability for all of those weapons can't be established. However, I will tell you that the procedures that I've seen that are in place are actually quite good. I went to visit- uh among the places I visited, I went to the director of logistics here at the ministry of interior and I looked at their system for how they issue weapons. And it's actually quite good in that they have all the weapons on a computer. They can account for the serial number, and the badge number, and the individual that the weapons that they have been issuing this last year at least have been going to. And so, while I don't know what happened in 2004 necessarily. I'm not an expert on the accountability procedures for then. What I can say is the accountability procedures I've seen that are in place now are actually quite good and satisfactory to me. And I have a very high level of confidence that the weapons that are being issued by the ministry today they're accounted for. They know who they're going to. They know what serial number that weapon is. Who the individual is. What the badge number is of that policeman whose responsible for that weapon and so forth. So I think that I'm pretty satisfied that today we have the right procedures in place. Thank you. Yes mam?
Q When I here last week, [inaudible] militias had made was not just about their activities but had made the communities that they were policing very frightened and certainly unwilling to help the police. As we know, a police force needs at least some support from the community. I'm wondering if you've got sense if that's been a change, you know for example an indication could be if the police are getting intelligence from the communities or any other kind of support and then just a follow up to one of the other questions about the militia. In terms of the reform of the uh police force. How were the militia members spotted or found and if you could give us any kind of general numbers on how many left below the officers that you did tell us about.
GEN. JONES: I'm sorry could you repeat the last part of that question?
Q Just a kind of more detailed follow up with from an earlier answer you gave where there were I think nine brigade commanders removed and the majority of the battalion commanders removed. A good number of the infiltration of the police had been militia sort of foot soldiers. . . .
GEN. JONES: Okay got it.
Q How closely were they looked at and any kind of numbers you could give us.
GEN. JONES: Right. Well let me start off. That's a- I'm not sure how many questions that is but I'll try to answer all of them. The first thing is in terms of militias in their role, the bottom line for me personally is there is no role for militias to play in the long-term security of Iraq. And that is the responsibility for security of the country should go with people that are empowered by the government. And that is the police forces, whether they are the provincial police forces or in a state of emergency other kinds of security forces. But they, you know, what's in a civilized country, it's the state that is responsible for providing security. And so that's what we need to create and what we need to have happen I think in Iraq like all other modern countries.
In terms of community support, clearly we're seeing increasing amounts of community support in my opinion. The indicators that I see are if you look at the number of tips and this is a system where average Iraqis who know of wrongdoing or know of bad activity can report it. That number over time has continued to increase now for several years. And in fact, the ministry of interior, in order to handle the volume of reporting that they're receiving from individuals, is actually having to expand its capability to receive the number of calls. And so, clearly community members are deciding in many cases they've had enough of the violence and they want to see it end and they're willing to provide information to help that happen. I think on a local level the people who are real experts in that will be the provincial police chiefs and the community police chiefs who can tell you the level of cooperation they're receiving from their communities. But I know certainly in some communities you're seeing increased level of community participation. So I think it's in a positive trend. It isn't where I think it needs to be in terms of having every member of every community feel like the security forces that they have the level of trust and confidence that they can report any wrongdoing that they see and feel confident it will be dealt with. That's gonna take some time to build that trust but I think it's headed in the right direction.
And then the last business in terms of the reform of the national police, what we are currently seeing happen is there is actually a program that's taking the national police units and going through them and doing a combination of re-vetting of the members of those organizations. They're eliminating members who are known to have performed badly. I told you about the number of leaders. I don't know the exact number. I know that earlier when I saw some numbers it was in excess of over 800 of these policemen in these organizations that had been fired or punished and eliminated from service. So that's a fairly significant number I believe and tells me that we're making some progress. But that continues. That whole process of continuing to retrain continues. We now have the next phase and that is in NATO they have decided to try to assist and so we're having some more expert what I call very sophisticated policemen, the Carabinieri kind of policemen with an assistance package from NATO that will come and also assist in training with the national police. And again, I think that's a very good development for a couple of reasons. One, is it will accomplish some really good training effect and that is some of the very best policemen in the world here in Iraq to assist the national police in achieving a higher level of capability. But the second thing is it shows a real commitment on the part of the international community to want to contribute in some way to the security situation and the capability of the security forces. Yes sir?
Q Do you have a plan to develop the Iraqi police to a certain number? To increase the number of the Iraqi police.
GEN. JONES: That's a very good question. There is always questions about what is the right number or what number are you going to. The answer is number one that's a decision for the Iraqi government and the Iraqi ministry to make. I will tell you there have been some decisions recently to increase the number of Iraqi police and so we in CPAT are in support of an effort to do that to help them as they are recruiting and then training. Our participation is in supporting the training effort and equipping effort. And so they are going through that process right now. And that number continues to change as it should because I think that the, as the situation changes, any good professional organization is always gonna look at itself, look at the situation, and make adjustments. So recently they have made some decisions to make some adjustments to increase the number of policemen and I think that they'll continue to make adjustments over time as the security situation changes. Thank you. Yes Sir?
Q Do you have any plans to arm the police with modern weapons other than those in the Iraqi streets now?
GEN. JONES: Okay um, the questions are do I have any plans to arm with different weapons? And the answer is I don't. The responsibility for that is clearly in the ministry of interior. They have made some decisions in terms of the types of weapons that they're fielding. I will tell you the choice of those weapons is up to the ministry and to the police. They have, in some cases, very, very modern weapons, the most modern in the world. In some cases they've chosen to go with a weapon because of its simplicity and ease to be able to field. But the answer is yeah they are improving both the quality and the quantity of the weapons that are available to the police. Yes sir?
Q Jeff Emanuel Weekly Standard. Within the Iraqi police there are some I guess more elite units like up in Nineveh, Tal-afar where I just came from the SWAT type units who are getting from American SF better training, more rigorous training by IP standards especially and who carryout very complex missions at a very high tempo. They're struggling really badly to get recognized by MOI as anything over than regular policeman for equipment issues and for reasons of the additional duties they have to do. Now do you see any movement in MOI to do that or is that something that you're aware of?
GEN. JONES: Here's what I can tell you about that. I don't know a great deal of detail about specifics that you're talking about. But there are different types of police forces. You have the normal police that are your standard policemen that are out in communities. You have national police that are a little bit more highly trained in these higher risk operations and then you have some elite units, the SWAT kinds of units. I know that each province is authorized to have those kinds of units and they're under both the control in the direction of that provincial police chief. And I know that we have a variety of folks that are working with those to try to develop the capability. One of the interesting dynamics that's changed in the time that I've been gone is that when I here before pretty much the ministry controlled everything. And what's happened in the interim period is the provincial police chiefs have been given a great deal more authority and responsibility than they've ever had before. In the process of doing that, there is always some element of friction as you transition responsibilities for the people that are trying to pick those up in terms of how smoothly that goes. And so, clearly there are gonna be some frictions and some problems in terms of the responsibility for those types of units and the ability to get the right kinds of equipment and the right quantities and that kind of thing. I don't know specifically what the plans are for those units but I know that there are all very important units and I think that most people recognize the value that they bring and why they need extra training and some very specialized equipment. On a national net level, I know that the Iraqis are addressing that and doing fairly well. I'm sure that it varies on provincial level. I know of some specific ones that are extremely capable and well equipped. I don't know the particular one that you're talking about. But I'm sure that it varies quite a bit and that's about all I know about it right now.
Sure. In the very back, yes sir?
Q During the tours we made during the curfew, we noticed that the Coalition forces inspecting the vehicles of the police. Does this mean intrust and the second question, did you open courses to educate the Iraqi police or just for training? Second question.
GEN. JONES: Can you repeat the first question? I didn't really understand what the first question was.
Q Sir the question was during the curfew, the last curfew they had, they noticed that the MNF-I forces are searching some of the police in the national police cars. What do you have to say about that? Is this normal practice? And uh, the second one. Did you form any cultural training for the police officer other than the police training?
GEN. JONES: Okay let me talk to the first question and that is during the curfew what kind of searching operations are going on and so forth? To tell you the truth I'm not an operational commander. The mission of CPAT is to help assist force polices in the training and equipping in the development of ministerial capacity. So I'm not familiar with what you talked about and probably an operational commander would be better suited to address the question.
On the second issue of is there other education that's going on beyond the training of police skills. What I'd tell you is the answer is yes. There are a variety of kinds of training that are being done with police in addition to the normal kinds of police skills that are being trained, there are a variety of special kinds of training going on everything from investigative training and forensics, and all kinds of specialty skills. And then in addition to that of course there's the normal police college that goes on which is a very broad educational system and is much longer and clearly covers a lot more academic subjects than just purely policing kinds of skills. So the answer is yes there's quite a bit going on. Yes sir?
Q Thank you. I have two questions. One was about how many US military officials as well as Iraqi officials in some of the provinces outside of Baghdad, especially the rural areas have said that there's a frustration with getting enough police out to patrol their towns and their cities and that MOI isn't distributing the police force evenly. And I was just wondering if you have heard those concerns and what your thoughts are on that. And then sorry, the second quick question is just if I could get your take on the incidents in Karbala a couple of days ago and I guess what that means about the readiness of the Iraqi police force given what happened. Thanks.
GEN. JONES: Okay. Uh, the first thing is in terms of numbers of police, again the determination of the numbers of police was based on a calculation that is based on a population percentage. So, and that's kind of typical of a lot of police forces where you take the population and you apply a ratio against the population and that tells you how many policemen you need. And then because of the security situation they made some additional forces available because in those areas that had significant security problems they added to that number of authorizations. But as I would tell you is that it's a very dynamic process. I know of at least five or six different places where the police have said the numbers that we have aren't right for our area because of these kinds of special situations. I know that as the minister has received those requests, that they consider those and there are some that are in consideration right now. There are some that have been approved. For instance, in Baghdad, they have made a decision to increase the number of policemen. I believe it's about 12,000, in excess of 12,000. I know in Al Anbar they approved an increase of over 8,000 and they're still looking at the Al Anbar situation. And there are others out there that are in various stages of consideration. So I think that they have a good mechanism that once the ministry gets an actual request from a provincial director of police about how to analyze that, try to make the judgments as to what's appropriate, and figure out how to apply the resources towards it.
In terms of the incident in Karbala, obviously a very unfortunate incident. Terrible that there are people who would create a situation where people are not allowed to worship freely or celebrate a religious event. I think in terms of Iraqi security forces they in fact did respond appropriately that you saw the fact that the forces in that area working together did in fact combat the situation, get it under control and I think that you've seen it return a more stable situation because of that. The thing that I would point out is it's not a failure of Iraqi security forces it's actually quite a success and you'll notice that they did it. And all though if they had asked, Coalition forces would have been happy to help. The fact is they handled it on their own without asking for Coalition assistance. So I view it as a very unfortunate situation but one that does indicate growing capacity of Iraqi security forces to handle difficult situations. Yes, okay one follow up?
Q Just in light of that, what do you make of Prime Minister Maliki's decision to fire the commander in charge of securing Karbala area as well as, according to the statement, other officers who didn't do their duties?
GEN. JONES: I think that it's part of the prime minister's duty to assess the situation and determine whether he has leadership that he is confident in in place and that's clearly a decision that he's gotta make. I'm sure he'll make all those kinds of decisions based on the facts as he sees them.
We have time for one final question. Yes sir?
Q Has the current or the present Iraqi police has reached a level to confront the militias and the violence in Iraq?
GEN. JONES: Um, If I understood the question correctly, is have the police reached a level to confront the militia in Iraq? I think the answer to that question is it varies. There are some places where the police forces have reached a capability, where they're able to confront any threats to security. I think there are a lot of places where the threat is extremely high and that the police can't do it alone and that's why it's important that the police and the army forces work together. And I think we're seeing that happen in a variety of places.
You know, police forces are designed to operate in a certain environment and they can do a lot to establish security. But there are circumstances that are beyond the capability of the police to be able to deal with the situation and that's why you have to have in some cases special types of police units that can deal with much higher levels of violence. And it's also why in an emergency situation you may need the military to help because of the type of enemy that's there trying to destabilize the situation or do an attack.
So, I think it varies terrifically around the country. There's some places where I believe the police are in very firm control and able to deal with the security situation without assistance. There are many others that it requires some additional help because of the difficulty of the area. Okay.
Okay, well thank you very much. I'm sorry that we're about out of time but I would tell you that I'm grateful to be back in Iraq and see the progress that's been made. The other thing I would tell you is something that I'm very pleased to see and that is all of you. You know, when I was first here, if we'd had this, there would have been very few of you in the room. An important part of a free society, in my personal opinion, is very vibrant media, the ability of the press to go out and to try to find the truth and to layout the truth so people can see what's going on. And so, despite the fact that we have a difficult situation here in Iraq, I'm very pleased to see that Iraqi media is doing very well and has developed as a good institution here in the country.
So to each of you, thank you for what you're doing to contribute to a better Iraq, a place that's gonna be free and democratic and a fine country to live in. So thank you all very much.
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