Political Stability and Personal Security Elusive in Iraq
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
JOHN YDSTIE, Host:
MORNING EDITION'S Steve Inskeep has been in Baghdad for the past two weeks reporting on the efforts by U.S. and Iraqi authorities to create a new national police force. He is on his way back home and called us from Amman. I asked Steve how the U.S. could hope to build an effective police force amid the chaos and violence.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
However, General Peter Carelli, who is the U.S. land commander in Iraq, and who is focusing more and more, as Americans are, on police, insists in the last six to eight weeks of extreme violence, he thinks that some progress has been made, that in the crucible of this fight, that some forces have begun to improve. He points to Samara, where there was that terrible shrine bombing a few months ago, and the police force all but vanished, almost nobody was showing up to work. He says they've rebuilt that police force and it's now on the streets of Samara.
YDSTIE: I would presume, though, that people's first concern is their own survival in a situation like that.
INSKEEP: Oh, absolutely, and in a sampling of police stations and police officers that we've been able to talk to in the last couple of weeks, that is a dominant theme, not openly spoken but very plain. You have people who choose not to go to the scene of a crime, or not to investigate a crime, because they feel that it could cost their own lives.
YDSTIE: Amid all that chaos and violence, how do U.S. forces know who to trust as they work to build these police and security forces?
INSKEEP: The Iraqis have no role in the planning of them, and we were told by a U.S. military official that that is because of op-sec, as they call it, operational security. They are not sure who on that police force might tell if they spread the word about where a patrol was going to go. They're not sure that they can trust everybody on a police force, even though they do feel they can trust some of them.
YDSTIE: I guess that begs the question of how do you train these forces if they can't be involved?
INSKEEP: It's one of the challenges that U.S. military trainers are facing. I will say this. Just in the last few weeks, U.S. military teams that have been working directly with specific Iraqi national police units have actually moved into their bases. They are embedded the way that reporters are sometimes embedded with troops. They're living right there. They're with them day and night and one would hope that in that situation that they can build up a little bit greater trust.
YDSTIE: Steve, you were last in Iraq in 2004. Have things improved or gotten worse since you were last there?
INSKEEP: Now, that's not to say it's right or wrong to have overthrown Saddam Hussein. It is to say that this has opened up an enormous chain of additional problems which are far from being resolved.
YDSTIE: NPR's Steve Inskeep, who spent the last couple of weeks in Iraq. Thanks very much, Steve.
INSKEEP: You're welcome, John.
YDSTIE: You can hear Steve's reports from Iraq at npr.org.
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