Georgie is counting on Iraqi forces to provide security for all 4,000-plus polling places in the election to be held January 30. Which is why there will either be no election, or if an election is held it will lead to chaos.
Iraqi police and national guard forces, whose performance is crucial to securing January elections, are foundering in the face of coordinated efforts to kill and intimidate them and their families, say American officials in the provinces facing the most violent insurgency.
In the most violent provinces, they say, the Iraqis are so intimidated that many are reluctant to show up and do not tell their families where they work; they have yet to receive adequate training or weapons, present a danger to American troops they fight alongside, and are unreliable because of corruption, desertion or infiltration.
Given the weak performance of Iraqi forces, any major withdrawal of American troops for at least a decade would invite chaos, a senior Interior Ministry official, whose name could not be used, said in an interview last week.
South of Baghdad, where American troops are still trying to drive out insurgents after the recent offensive in Falluja, American officers warn their own troops to be prepared to “duck and cover” to avoid stray shots fired by Iraqi recruits.
In the northern city of Mosul, almost the entire police force and large parts of several Iraqi National Guard battalions deserted during an insurgent uprising this month. Iraqi leaders had to use Guard battalions of Kurdish soldiers to secure the city, kindling ethnic tensions with Arabs. Police stations in western Mosul have perhaps several hundred officers in an area that is supposed to have several thousand.
For those brave enough to come to work, “right now, all they’re doing is looking out the window and making sure the bad guys aren’t coming to get them,” said an American military official in Mosul, who did not want his name to be used.
Marine officers here maintain that the police are improving. In the current military sweep, called Operation Plymouth Rock, an Iraqi SWAT team was given credit for a series of raids that rounded up numerous insurgent suspects.
But a different assessment was disclosed in a slide that one of those Marine officers presented at a daily briefing just as 150 new Iraqi police recruits were due to arrive by helicopter at an American base at 9 p.m., or in military parlance, 2100 hours:
“2100: Clown Car arrives,” the slide said, referring to the helicopters. “2101: Be ready for negligent discharges,” the entry continued, warning of accidental shots from the AK-47’s carried by many of the recruits. “Recommend ‘Duck & Cover,’ ” it concluded.
Lt. Col. Mark Smith, commanding officer of a Marine task force here, said the slide was a product of frustration among marines over the slow pace of training the police. “You just have to lower your expectations on the timetable on when they’re going to get things done,” he said.
There is still little police presence amid the devastation in post-invasion Falluja. Down the road, in Ramadi, an American commander said the police had proved useless. There, American troops with the First Battalion of the Army’s 503d Infantry are briefed to be just as cautious in dealing with the Iraqi police as they are with anyone else.
The police “are clearly intimidated to the point where they don’t want to come to work,” said the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Justin Gubler.
He said the Iraqi National Guard, known as the I.N.G., has only a “little bit more training.” They also have serious problems of loyalty and competence. Just a few months ago, he believes, the local National Guard force was complicit in the abduction and killing of its own battalion commander west of Falluja.
“That’s what you get out of the I.N.G.,” Colonel Gubler said. “They gave up their battalion commander, laid their weapons down, and 23 cars and trucks and massive amounts of ammunition went to Falluja. It’s just pitiful.”
The “clown car” slide described above points out yet another problem with our effort in Iraq: Americans in Iraq have no respect for Iraqis. They invaded Iraq thinking that Iraqis were inferior, that they had to be rescued from Saddam and instructed in the intricacies of American-style democracy, that their own intstitutions were of little use. That’s one reason why we are failing there.