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Iraq: COL Mark R. French - National Police
Posted by: McQ on Monday, July 30, 2007

Very interesting briefing/discussion with COL Mark R. French, Deputy Commander for Professional Development and Training, Civilian Police Assistance Training Team (CPATT), Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq (MNSTC-I) about the new Italian Carabinieri Police Team sent at the request of the Iraqi Government to help train the MoI Police on special military police tactics that will go into effect in September when the new school is built.

I say interesting because I learned a lot about the plans for the National Police, the problems they've encountered until now and how they're rectifying (or attempting to rectify) them.

As an aside, this was my second opportunity to sit in on a blogger roundtable held by DoD. I was recently invited to join. The invitation was also sent to a number of anti-war bloggers as well. Today, as well as with the conference call with COL Twitty, none of them availed themselves of the opportunity to be on, or if they did, they didn't identify themselves or ask any questions.

Anyway COL French is obviously deeply involved in getting the National Police effort up to speed. They belong to the Minister of the Interior, and, as everyone knows, they've had a multitude of problems which has, up till now, prevented them, for the most part, of being an effective police force.

French described them as a "bridging force" between the local police and the Iraqi Army, much like the Italian Carabinieri. They are a national civil security force that will, it is hoped, be the "first responder" to any situation which is more than local police can handle. If successful, that would then allow the Iraqi Army to concentrate on external threats.

He gave us a little background on the National Police effort. In March of 2006 the Ministry of the Interior had formed 4 police commando brigades, 4 public order brigades, a mechanized brigade and an emergency response battalion (similar to SWAT). That was later consolidated into the National Police organization of today, with 2 divisions of 4 brigades each and a mechanized brigade which recently added it's third battalion.

The National Police force has an authorized strength of a little over 30,000 and a present assigned strength of a little over 25,000. So there is still some more filling in to do.

In the summer of '06, according to COL French, GEN Casey, unhappy with the performance of the National Police, ordered a reassessment and retraining of the unit. Part of that also entailed the elimination of leadership which was involved in sectarian violence, illegal activities or had exhibited poor performance. 8 of the 9 brigade commanders were relieved for those reasons, as well as 17 of 27 battalion commanders. All members of the force were put through a biometric vetting process in which their information was checked against a national data base of criminals, etc. Those found to be in there fraudulently were dismissed.

They are now engaged in a 4 phase operation to build a professional and credible force that will be trusted by the Iraqi people. That's going to be a tough mission because of the involvement in sectarian violence and illegal activities of many of the previous NP leaders.

Anyway, Phase I of the plan has already been completed and it was mostly an assessment phase - where are they weak, where do they need help, etc. It also included a command climate survey which is an anonymous questionnaire in which all parts of the command climate are examined. As COL French said, it was very revealing and helped immensely in determining the rest of the training needed.

They're in phase II now. It was originally scheduled to be a 3-4 day refresher or "re-bluing" as he called it, but once they got into it, decided they needed to spend more than a few days re-emphasizing various aspects of their duties. As he said it is about 75% on policing skills (basic policing, human rights, etc) and 25% tactical (patrolling, check points, etc). This phase will end 10 October.

On 18 October, the Carabinieri like training will begin. It is a "train the trainer" effort where selected members of each brigade will be trained by Italian teams of Carabinieri and then go back and become the trainers for their brigades. This is where the true national character of their police work, to include investigation and forensics, will be taught and learned.

Phase IV, at a date to be determined, has the National Police disbursed outside of Baghdad. Presently there are small NP elements in Balad and Samara, but the vast majority are in Baghdad, integrated into the Baghdad security plan and fully invested in that until completion. However, even if they were released from that duty, their training level and their logistics wouldn't allow them to deploy. It won't be until a sufficient level of the Phase III training is complete within the brigades that they'll be deemed tactically ready to go.

The other problem is one we've seen throughout the effort with both the army and police. They cannot, at this time, logistically support themselves. COL French reports a logistics brigade is being stood up right now to support the NP. Obviously that'll take some time. Until it is up and properly functioning, the NP are pretty well tied to their Baghdad bases.

That's the short version of what I learned today about that very critical effort. Yes, it has languished for quite a while, it is an organization that gained a bad reputation because it almost 'self-organized' with little or no vetting. But it appears that the effort under way now has either corrected or is in the middle of correcting most of those deficiencies.

Like I said, an interesting call. And another bit of information I can now use to further analyze our effort in Iraq. To me, that is the purpose of these calls. I consider myself and those who sit in on these calls smart enough to know when an effort to spin us is underway. To this point I've not really detected such an effort. And with an open question format at the end, anything that has even remotely smelled of such has been questioned in detail.

Anyway, FYI.
 
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Stories about retraining the police come about every three to six months. And we all have our biases, both intentional and unconscious. So, here are some questions you might consider asking on the next call:

1. Who did the assessment and why should their judgment be trusted?

2. A 3-4 day rebluing exercise appears to be very short. Is there any evidence of the success of this kind of program. (ie, has it been tried elsewhere and evaluated after a period of time?)

3. There appear to be large chunks of Iraq, especially Basra and the surrounding areas to the South, and Sadr City within Bagdad, where the vast majority of people support leadership that is only nominally loyal to the central government. As a practical matter, however, these areas appear to be setting up independent sub-states funded by oil smuggling and other corruption. It is reported that these sub-states have been ethnically cleansed and are becoming increasingly theocratic. What role will an integrated national police play in these areas?

4. One of the great lessons of the 1990s about police work in the US is that success can be quantified. Who is in charge of developing metrics of success for the Iraqi police? Who is in charge of collecting data and evaluating success or failure? How can we trust the accuracy of those reports? What will be the consequences of failure? Will the American public be kept informed?

 
Written By: Francis
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