Iraq Police Fixable After All
The U.S. military has rejected the advice issued three months ago by an independent commission, deciding that the Iraqi national police force is salvageable.
U.S. military commanders in Baghdad have concluded that Iraq’s 27,000-member national police force has made progress in weeding out officers involved in sectarian violence and should not be disbanded, countering the judgment of an independent commission that last fall deemed the police corrupt beyond repair and recommended that the force be eliminated.
The Iraqi efforts are “bearing fruit,” said Army Maj. Gen. Michael Jones, commander of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, which advises the Iraqi Interior Ministry. “We have seen a significant change in their performance and behavior. For the most part, they are doing a good job.”
The new assessment follows a classified U.S. military review of Iraq’s Interior Ministry and its security forces completed in late October. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, ordered the review after the commission, led by retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, issued a report on Sept. 6 that described the Interior Ministry as dysfunctional and said the police force was “not viable in its current form.”
In September, Petraeus said the national police and other elements in the Interior Ministry had been “hijacked by sectarian influences” in 2006 and that the review would constitute “a hard look” at what structural changes were needed.
The conclusions reflect U.S. commanders’ growing confidence in the willingness of Iraqi officials to carry out reforms and also suggest waning U.S. leverage to oust sectarian officers or mandate major changes as the United States begins reducing its forces in Iraq. “The most important thing is not necessarily our recommendations but what the Iraqis intend to do,” Maj. Gen. Michael Jones said. “They intend to take a different approach and reform the national police. It is their force, ultimately they have to decide.”
Well, that’s certainly true. But why, then, have an independent commission at all?
While I suppose there is some political cover to be gained by passing judgments off to blue ribbon panels, that only works if the recommendations are more-or-less adopted. By rejecting the findings so soon after they’re made, the natural conclusion will be that political expediency trumped technical analysis. Certainly, the panel of military and police experts who issued that report would seem, on the surface, to be more qualified to render an impartial verdict than the commanders in the field?
Perhaps the facts on the ground have changed in the last three months? The Surge is working and all that? But, again, why bring in an independent commission if the situation was that fluid?