Whatever plan the Bush administration unveils — a large force increase, a withdrawal or something in between — this country’s security is going to be left in the hands of Iraqi forces. Those forces, already struggling with corruption and infiltration, have shown little willingness to stand up to political pressure, especially when the Americans are not there to support them. That suggests, the commanders say, that if the Americans leave soon, violence will redouble. And that makes their mission, Major Voorhies and Colonel Miska say, more important than ever.
They added that while political pressure on the Iraqi Army is great, the influence exerted on the police force, which is much more heavily infiltrated by Shiite militia groups, is even greater. Shiites, led by militia forces and often aided by the local police, are clearly ascendant, Colonel Miska said.
“It seems very controlled and deliberate and concentrated on expanding the area they control,” he said.
...“I believe everyone, to some extent, is influenced by the militias,” Colonel Miska said. “While some Iraqi security forces may be complicit with the militias, others fear for their families when confronting the militia, and that is the more pervasive threat.”
...As it stands, the police and military answer to different ministries, and within the police force the bureaucracy is divided even further between the regular police and the national police. On top of that are about 145,000 armed men who work as protection detail for the Facilities Protection Services, with minimal oversight, according to United States military officials.There are also thousands of Shiite militia members and Sunni insurgents posing as security forces.
...Among Sunnis, there is absolutely no faith in the ability, or desire, of the Iraqi Army or police to provide protection. Colonel Sabah, who is Shiite but who had to leave his own home because of threats by the militia, is viewed as a collaborator.
Major Voorhies acknowledged that it was easier to persuade Colonel Sabah to search Sunni neighborhoods. Still, he said the colonel was one of Iraq’s better army officers.
“When we have his back, he will fight anyone,” said Major Voorhies. “When we don’t, he will cut deals.”
American soldiers seemed to appreciate the difficult position of officers like Colonel Sabah. His brother was murdered on Sept. 12, and just working in the Iraqi Army puts his life in danger.
Facing such stark challenges already, it makes the actions of Iraqi political leaders who try to manipulate the security forces that much more galling, Major Voorhies said.
“Colonel Sabah gets in a very political predicament sometimes,” Major Voorhies said. “He will detain someone and then gets a call and is told not to take them away, so he has no choice.”
Can 30,000 more troops fix this? 100,000?