Sunday, September 26, 2004

Big Arms For the Iraqi Gendarmes

You have to wonder about the Iraqi police force. According to the article I link, an Oregon Guard military unit in Iraq discovered that an Iraqi police station was stashing a huge cache of weapons. One member of the Oregon unit explained,
"You don't know who to trust," said Staff Sgt. James Way, 33, of Portland.

Way was one of the soldiers who confiscated the store of weapons Tuesday. He echoed the feelings of several soldiers, who said they don't like the thought of Iraqi police -- supposedly their allies in the battle with insurgents -- being allowed to reclaim the rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. "If we give the cops (back) this stuff, it's going to be shot at us," he said.

"It's a lot of stuff." The cache, included more than 100 rocket-propelled grenades and three dozen launchers, nearly 100 mortar rounds, and hundreds of assault machine guns and other rifles.
It's curious how you would call this group of Iraqis a police unit, it sounds more like an army. Yet, these police are the same Iraqis that have not really been fully trained by Americans. It has been found that the progress of training Iraqis as police has been far behind what the Pentagon has been claiming.

This is one of the major problems in Iraq, the turnover of the protection of Iraq to Iraqis. It has been difficult to even protect applicants from being killed in car bombings as the resistance has been targeting recruiting lines. Iraqis want to become police mainly because there are very few jobs for the large mass of unemployed. They know the job is dangerous and fraught with ramifications of both being targeted by the resistance and hatred of many Iraqi civilains as being stooges for the American occupying force. Yet with a lack of job opportunities many take the risk.

The article explains more of the Oregon Guards concerns,
Although details are sketchy, military authorities have determined that Iraq's Ministry of Interior gave the weapons to the police station, which was supposed to distribute them to other police stations throughout Baghdad, said 1st Lt. Abe Gilman, 31, of Salem. But Gilman said the Iraqi government's reason for reversing an earlier policy that had prohibited the dissemination of such explosives "is totally unknown."

Gilman said, it is the job of U.S. soldiers to back up the Iraqi interim government's authority. "It's their country, and if the prime minister decides he wants to issue (Iraqi police) weapons of this sort, then we will support them anyway we can," he said.

But he concedes there are reasons to worry. The still-young Iraqi police force may not be experienced enough to withstand attacks from insurgents and prevent heavy weaponry from falling into the wrong hands. Insurgents in at least a few instances in the past have been able to overrun Iraqi police stations and seize control, Gilman said.

Then, there is the X factor that soldiers find the most worrisome -- that the Iraqi police force may include insurgents in its ranks. Although few U.S. soldiers will say so publicly, there's a widespread sense that the police force in some of Iraq's most violent areas employs at least some corrupt officers.

You've got to wonder what's up with the type of weapons the Iraqi government thinks is OK for the police. Who knows, maybe they want to have the police on their side for the upcoming (maybe?) elections. You could influence alot of voters with your police toting RPGs and motars.


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