We’re counting on Iraqi security forces, noted for being the frequent target of suicide bombers and for their penchant for running away from confrontations with insurgents, to protect all 9,000 Iraqi polling places on January 30.
Iraqi officials and American commanders plan to rely on Iraqi security forces to protect 9,000 polling places during the coming elections, but there are far fewer trained security officers than Iraqi officials estimate are needed. Moreover, many have performed poorly in the Sunni Arab areas where the worst violence is expected.
Iraqi and American officials believe it is important to deploy Iraqi forces, rather than have American troops police the polls, to ensure the credibility of the vote. But American commanders say that only 145,000 Iraqi security personnel will be trained and ready by election day, now scheduled for Jan. 30, far short of the 270,000 that Iraqi officials say are needed.
On Nov. 11, 3,200 of the city’s 4,000 police officers abandoned their jobs after insurgents staged attacks on police stations and other government buildings. The electoral commission quickly shut down all 56 voter registration centers in Nineveh Province, where Mosul is situated.
The recent performance of the Mosul police “is worrisome, as the police force is necessarily the cornerstone of the elections security system,” said Brig. Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of the force charged with controlling the far north of Iraq.
Until more trusted police forces are made available, the general said, election security will depend on the Iraqi National Guard.
The most reliable national guardsmen have proved to be militiamen from the two major Kurdish political parties, more than 2,000 of whom were brought into Mosul during the uprising. But their deployment around polling centers could inflame ethnic and political tensions in a city that has many Sunni Arabs, Kurds, Christians and Turkmens.
Mr. Abdul-Latif, head of the government election committee, said the Interior and Defense Ministries would have to assemble the 270,000 trained security officers needed for the elections, perhaps by hiring gunmen just for election day.
In Baghdad, where commanders expect a voter turnout of at least 80 percent in a city of six million, one senior American officer said anxiety was growing as Jan. 30 drew closer.
“We’re Type A personalities here, so in a perfect world we’d like to know in advance where every polling place will be and have security plans for each one,” he said. “Does it make we nervous that we don’t? Hell yeah, it makes me nervous.”