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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part III

Toward the Objective: Building a New Iraq

Chapter 11
Training the Iraqi Security Forces


A New Iraqi Police Service

As noted throughout this study, the Coalition’s prewar planning did not anticipate the near complete breakdown of law and order and the almost complete disruption of Iraqi governance that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein. In fact, in their planning efforts both ORHA and the CPA hoped the Iraqi MOI could be quickly reformed and put in charge of internal security and control of the borders. The security situation in Iraq after the removal of Saddam necessitated a rush to stand up police forces and related civilian security organizations, but despite the urgency of the task, the Coalition underestimated its immensity and did not adequately resource the process.72 The CPA exacerbated the situation when it issued its de-Baathification order and, almost overnight, most of the MOI’s leadership became unemployed. The Coalition’s program to reestablish Iraq’s police would become a struggle for resources, leadership, and direction—in many ways mirroring the efforts to create a new professional army.

On 2 May 2003 ORHA recalled to duty the Baghdad police, and Coalition commanders made similar recall announcements in secured areas outside the capital. In June 2003 the CPA issued a directive requiring all former police officers to return to work by 3 July 2003. According to a 2005 State Department Inspector General (IG) report, approximately 38,000 police officers returned, and Coalition units in the field recruited an additional 30,000.73 At this point in the campaign, training levels and equipment were extremely rudimentary.

To help improve the program, Bremer tapped Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner, to lead the CPA’s effort as head of the CPATT. A British police official, Douglas Brand, arrived to serve as Kerik’s deputy. The US State Department’s Bureau of International and Narcotics Law Enforcement (INL) and the Justice Department’s International Criminal Investigative Assistance Training Program (ICITAP) assisted in the design of the new police program and the State Department allocated $25 million to “assess” the state of Iraq’s police.74 Additional advisors arrived from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Spain and began assisting the MOI. Many of those involved in planning the new police force wanted decentralized control of the police to build a force that was representative and responsive to the needs of the local constituents. At the same time, the problem of insurgents and terrorists caused some advisors to argue that control be centralized. Ultimately, the CPA chose a hybrid model where local police chiefs had some autonomy, but were accountable to both local elected officials and the MOI.75

While recruiting the number of men required for the new Iraqi Police Service (IPS) was a large-scale problematic undertaking, finding quality leadership was even more difficult. Due to de-Baathification and revenge killings, the senior leadership of the police had fled or had been removed by the CPA. Many junior personnel who knew the fate of the senior leadership abandoned their posts as well. Although some of the new Iraqi senior officers were dedicated to the mission, overall professional standards were low. The leadership program was eventually modified to include a focus on management and leadership skills.76

Between mid-May and August 2003, Kerik and the CPATT struggled with finding methods, resources, and the infrastructure to train the IPS. Using US police forces as models, Kerik estimated that Iraq needed between 65,000 and 75,000 police officers. In early August 2004, the CPA estimated that only 30,000 mostly untrained, underequipped, and unmotivated officers had returned to duty. Kerik originally estimated it would take 6 years to train the police in Iraq. Bremer told him he had only 2 years, and to look for support from Hungary using the Taszar Air Base that NATO had used in support of operations in Bosnia during the 1990s. Bremer then allocated $120 million of seized Iraqi assets to fund a recruiting and training program that Kerik believed would require $750 million in the first year alone.77

On 31 August 2003 Bremer notified Kerik that the Hungarian option was dead; the Hungarian parliament had decided to delay the request for support until after the beginning of 2004.78 The country of Jordan, which had agreed to train some 2,000 officers of the NIA, was identified as the next nation that might provide assistance in the CPATT effort. CPA and CPATT hoped to implement a plan to train some 25,000 police in Jordan over the next 18 months. But the program could not begin until funding was provided in the US President’s supplemental budget request then working its way through Congress.79 As a result, the first Iraqi police recruits did not begin training in Jordan until mid-November 2003.

Perhaps more debilitating than the problems in finding resources and training sites was Iraq’s traditional attitude toward its police. In Iraqi cultural and historical experience, service in the police was not seen as an honorable profession. An Iraqi expression encountered by US forces explained the challenge: “If a man should fall from grace it’s okay because he can still become a policeman.”80 This stereotype had deep roots. The legacy of Iraqi policing before 2003 was one of corruption, repression, and a career of last resort. The ethnic and religious fractures in Iraqi society had traditionally hampered attempts to create police forces based on equal treatment under the law, and the Baathist regime had often used its police to enact revenge and suppress political adversaries.

For these reasons, Iraqi police resembled Western style police forces in name only. New and even returning recruits desperately needed comprehensive training because simple forensic procedures, such as establishing a fingerprint database, were unknown.81 The Jordan International Police Training Center (JIPTC) and the Baghdad Public Safety Academy provided much of that rudimentary yet necessary training. The basic course included modern police methods, such as defense tactics, firearms training, and emergency vehicle operation. Recruits also learned the basic framework of constitutional democracy, use of force, human rights, gender issues, police ethics, and codes of conduct among other subjects. The first class of 456 Iraqi recruits began the new program in November 2003.82

CPA police advisors also designed a 3-week Transition Integration Program (TIP) to vet prospective officers and provide initial training for former police officers who had returned to duty. The course included 126 hours of instruction including the role of the IPS, prohibitions against torture, police ethics and codes of conduct, and practical training in firearms instruction. However, because the CPA’s civilian police advisors were not present throughout the country, US Army Military Police (MP) units conducted much of the recruiting and training with only nominal CPA supervision.83 Without civilian police advisors, MPs taught with limited knowledge of the culture and procedures of the Iraqi criminal justice system.

While CPATT struggled with funding and a lack of sufficient personnel to train the IPS, other Coalition military units across Iraq tried to fill the void by standing up local police units on their own. In late spring 2003 the 3d ID’s 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry (1-30th IN) took matters into its own hands by opening a police station in their area of responsibility (AOR) in Baghdad. The unit’s Soldiers physically went into the abandoned building, swept it out, opened the door, and placed a tank outside for protection. Battalion leaders then traveled around the city to convince former Iraqi police officers to return and accompanied Iraqi officers on their initial patrols to provide legitimacy. The leadership of 1-30th IN also conducted a limited information operation campaign in their area as they tried to convey the message that the police stations and academies were open and those interested in serving should report to the academies.84 When the Soldiers of the 1st AD took over responsibility for Baghdad from the 3d ID in May 2003, they also supported the newly established Iraqi police departments in their neighborhoods by providing basic items such as weapons seized during house raids and traffic checkpoints, dark blue T-shirts for temporary uniforms, and Nissan Maxima cars that they had painted blue and numbered.85

In the north of the country, the 101st ABN conducted numerous projects to help the Iraqis reinstate their police. The division’s 2d Brigade rebuilt a local police academy in Mosul from the ground up. The brigade’s Soldiers began by securing funding to rebuild offices and locate furniture and computers. By late summer 2003 the 2d Brigade had established a permanent police academy overseen by a US Army Reserve MP company comprised of Soldiers who served as police officers in their civilian lives.86 Units in the 4th ID established a similar police training program in Salah ad Din province in the summer of 2003. By August the US-trained Iraqi police had begun planning operations on their own and conducting joint missions with Soldiers from the 4th ID.87

Like its program to build the ICDC, CJTF-7’s improvised efforts to stand up police units ran afoul of the CPA and Ambassador Bremer. In another illustration of the problems caused by lack of unity of command in Iraq, Bremer often clashed with CJTF-7 and CENTCOM over security force efforts that remained outside the CPA’s control. Bremer believed that CJTF-7 was trying to inflate police numbers as a means to lessen the need for increased levels of US forces in current and future troop rotations. At one point in early October 2003, Bremer even ordered Sanchez to end the Army’s police building programs.88 Nevertheless, the program continued until April 2004 when CJTF-7 was given responsibility for building all Iraqi security forces.

The IPS effort was the least successful aspect of the entire ISF train and equip program in 2003 and 2004. The Coalition’s attempts to give Iraq a professional law enforcement institution had become the victim of inaccurate assumptions about post-Saddam Iraq, a worsening security environment, and traditional Iraqi antipathy toward the profession. Simply put, neither the CPA nor CJTF-7 had the resources to give the police programs the priority they needed to surmount the historical and cultural obstacles in their way.89 In the spring of 2004 many Iraqi police forces simply dissolved in the cities where Sunni and Shia armed groups rebelled. Not until the fall of 2004 would the IIG and the Coalition be able to revamp their police building efforts in any significant way.

Chapter 11. Training the Iraqi Security Forces

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