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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

22 May 2006

Security Tops New Iraqi Government's Agenda

Military progressing well, police forces face significant challenges, says official

By David McKeeby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- With ongoing insurgent and terrorist attacks, as well as continuing sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni communities, Iraq’s complex security situation will top the agenda of the newly announced unity government, says James Jeffrey, coordinator for Iraq policy and a senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In a May 22 briefing in Washington, Jeffrey said the United States welcomes the formation of the new Iraqi unity government and will continue supporting its leaders' efforts to improve security, unleash Iraq’s economic potential and become a positive example of democracy in the Middle East.

While permanent ministers of defense and interior were not named as part of the Iraqi unity government, Jeffrey said that this is due to last-minute negotiations and that he expects that they will be announced “in the next few days.” (See related article.)

Jeffrey stressed that the unity government’s formation will not trigger a dramatic drawdown of coalition forces.  He reiterated President Bush’s pledge that conditions on the ground and not a set timeline would determine troop strength, and that “as the Iraqi forces stand up, our forces will stand down.” (See related article.)

Jeffrey said that the coalition’s training programs are progressing and should produce approximately 100 Iraqi light infantry battalions within the next year capable of conducting counterinsurgency operations. 

“In terms of a counterinsurgency force, we're very, very pleased at where the Iraqi army is,” he said.  (See related article.)

The Iraqi army still will require a significant amount of heavy equipment and logistics training before it becomes a fully modern military force.  This process will likely take several years, but, Jeffrey said, noting that the U.S. Department of Defense has $3.7 billion in funding for Iraqi equipment as part of a larger supplemental request to Congress,  “we will see what the Iraqi needs are, and we will try to do our very best to be helpful in the future.”

CHALLENGES FOR IRAQI POLICE FORCE

In contrast, Jeffrey acknowledged that building a new Iraqi police force has proven more challenging, hence the coalition’s designation of 2006 as “The Year of the Police” in Iraq.  (See related article.)

Training effective police officers takes time, a commodity that is unavailable in today’s Iraq, Jeffrey said.  To get officers on the street, recruits are receiving eight weeks of military-style training.  “It does not produce someone with the maturity, the training and the experience that you would expect for a policeman,” Jeffrey said.  (See related article.)

Another problem facing some Iraqi police units is their relationship with militia groups involved in sectarian violence.  Jeffrey said that a new interior minister ideally will be a recognized independent who will be able to develop procedures to review police recruits to ensure that the police force will be better able to protect all Iraqis.

A transcript of Jeffrey’s briefing is available on the State Department Web site.

For more information, see Iraq Update.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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