While St Tone won’t give a date, recently we’ve been given to understand that the Iraqis should be sufficiently well-organised for our troops to start pulling out in a year to eighteen months. Last week, The Guardian reported that
Amid mounting international concern over escalating violence, Mr Blair is expected to use today’s Downing Street talks with Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, to discuss plans for an exit strategy for British troops, with some ministers openly contemplating withdrawal inside a year.
In an attempt to demonstrate that the British army will not be bogged down in Iraq indefinitely, the defence secretary, Des Browne, said yesterday he expected that Iraq’s security forces would have the capacity within a year to take over from British forces, a point also pushed home by the Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells. Mr Howells said: “I would have thought that certainly in a year or so there will be adequately trained Iraqi soldiers and security forces – policemen and women and so on – in order to do the job.
Presumably they were helped, at least in part, to this conclusion by the views of US General George W Casey Jr, who was saying much the same thing at much the same time. Consequently, yesterday’s Washington Post may well have made unwelcome reading for them, should they have seen a copy:
“How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don’t even trust them not to kill our own men?” asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad. “To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure we’re ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence.”
The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., predicted last week that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control of the country in 12 to 18 months. But several days spent with American units training the Iraqi police illustrated why those soldiers on the ground believe it may take decades longer than Casey’s assessment.
Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.
“None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better,” said Brig. Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad. “They’re working for the militias or to put money in their pocket.”
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