Insecuring Iraq

Insecuring Iraq

Yet the Iraqis cannot take these steps without substantial U.S. assistance. As we accelerate the transfer of political power, we need to decelerate the transfer of security. Haste is the enemy of effectiveness. If anything, the training process should be far longer than that for Western security forces. Iraqis have far more to learn, and the tasks they will be called on to do--fighting an insurgency as well as crime--are among the most difficult for any security force. Proper vetting also takes months, not simply a few weeks. One officer who works for the other side can devastate U.S. efforts to fight the insurgency, and poses a direct risk to U.S. forces.

Such an effort will cost far more. As of March, the United States planned to spend $3.2 billion to improve security in Iraq. Two billion dollars is earmarked for the police--the largest police training program ever. This figure may grow considerably if we seek to put competent police officers on the street rather than just large numbers of them.

U.S. officer rotations to work with Iraqi security forces should also be extended. Gaining the trust of the Iraqis takes time, and the constant rotations destroy the personal relationships that are so important to effective law-enforcement. One of the problems the United States has faced in getting Iraqis to act in Fallujah was that the U.S. liaisons with the Iraqis had only been on the job for a few days.

Training must also be differentiated. Police are often wrongly viewed as simply a lower-echelon security force for fighting an insurgency. But most police duties should still focus on law enforcement, particularly as crime is the most pressing concern for most Iraqis. Moreover, because the police are only as good as the overall law enforcement system, investment in courts and prisons is vital.

These measures to improve security must go hand in hand with efforts to minimize the risk security forces will pose to an elected Iraqi government. The Iraqi police and security forces need a change of culture. This requires not only constant refreshers on how to treat citizens, but also a new leadership cadre. Training must focus on keeping the security forces and military apolitical and responsive to civilian control. Those who will not reform must be discarded, requiring the United States to identify junior officers who are worthy of promotion and work closely with them.

Finally, the United States must recognize that even as political reform and reconstruction depend on security, the process goes both ways. If Iraq lacks strong institutions and stalls economically, Iraqis will be more likely to support the insurgents, while the risk of a coup will rise greatly. This is the true nightmare, undermining both U.S. credibility and any short-term successes the United States has accomplished in Iraq.

Essay Types: Essay