Challenges Ahead for Iraq’s Police Force

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Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said this week that without doubt, U.S. troops would not be necessary or welcome in Iraq after the end of 2011. The Prime Minister is confident that Iraqi security forces are capable of maintaining internal security.

‘We do not need to keep US troops in Iraq…Iraqi forces and security services have become viable are able to control the security situation,’ said Prime Minister Maliki.

A closer look at the perils of being an Iraqi police officer tells a different story. Since 2003, over 8,000 Iraqi police officers have been killed on duty, while more than 7,500 have been injured. Iraq’s police officers are prime targets for Al Qaeda and other insurgency groups; they represent collaboration with the United States and the democratically elected Maliki government. But for young Iraqi men, often times the financial benefits often outweigh the dangers. Police officers are paid a monthly salary of $500 – that’s more than twice the average monthly pay for other government jobs. Also, family members of Iraqi police officers receive government stipends if their relative is injured or killed in the line of duty.

Aside from the pay, the Iraqi police force holds more prestige now than it did during the decades of Saddam Hussein’s rule. Saddam’s extensive network of military intelligence meant that the national police force was relatively unnecessary to internal stability. Their paychecks reflected this status – police officers were paid on average just $5 per month.

While the final withdrawal date for the remaining 47,000 U.S. troops is seven months away, circumstances on the ground show an intensification of violence. The official number of violent deaths doubled from February to March of this year, including deaths of security personnel. Theories of why this violence is occurring are aplenty, but some Iraqi politicians point to the inexperience or the premature confidence of the Iraqi police force.

“The reason is laxness on the part of the security forces. Perhaps they are too confident that security is stable, so when their forces were conducting searches, they weren’t being properly vigilant.” Abbas Al-Beyati, MP

Iraqi Security Forces face the daunting task of maintaining stability beyond the presence of American troops. But looking forward, the bravery and diligence they have shown in the past eight years cannot and should not be denied or unappreciated.


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