U.S. Trains Ex-Sunni Militias as Iraqi Police In Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the Iraqi government is struggling to bolster its police forces. Newly created security teams include former members of Sunni tribal militias who were linked to the insurgency. Now the Americans are training them.
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U.S. Trains Ex-Sunni Militias as Iraqi Police

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U.S. Trains Ex-Sunni Militias as Iraqi Police

U.S. Trains Ex-Sunni Militias as Iraqi Police

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Rachel Martin has the story.

RACHEL MARTIN: On an open dirt field, just a few miles outside the U.S. base in Fallujah, about 50 Iraqi men dressed in dusty green uniforms march in formation while their Iraqi drill leader shouts instructions.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAINING)

MARTIN: One of the trainers, Marine Sergeant Tony Storey, addresses the troops.

TONY STOREY: What I require from you as a platoon is that you get out and you support these men because they are a member of this team, of this family. You understand?

MARTIN: Qosai Abid is a 30-year-old father of two from Fallujah. For years he and his family lived in fear of the killing and banditry that insurgents waged on his community. Abid says the sheikhs made the right move.

QOSAI ABID: (Through Translator) The tribes have joined hands to fight terrorism against the injustice that was rife in this area. And now with God's will we will join them and we will be the front armor to help secure this entire region.

MARTIN: U.S. officers in Anbar say these provincial teams are becoming the eyes and ears of U.S.-led counterinsurgency efforts, helping identify militants in their local communities.

THOMAS VASQUEZ: They know exactly what these guys - first of all, what they look like, where they're from, and they know who belongs and who doesn't.

MARTIN: Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Vasquez is a native of New York City, and he helps oversee this training program.

VASQUEZ: The closest thing that they - these guys would be would probably a police reserve...

MARTIN: Okay.

VASQUEZ: ...that we have back home. That's the closest thing that they resemble.

MARTIN: And these guys would go into action under what circumstances?

VASQUEZ: Well, they'd fill out the shifts, you know, as an auxiliary. So as missions come up they are also tapped into that, to fulfill that. So these guys actually do get a good bit of action, actually.

MARTIN: Developing the Iraqi police has been a top priority for U.S. forces.

RICHARD SIMCOCK: Police here - they're my exit strategy.

MARTIN: Colonel Richard Simcock commands a combat regiment based in Fallujah.

SIMCOCK: It's just like home. I mean, if you woke up in your hometown and saw the National Guard walking up and down your street, you'd know things aren't good. Same here. I mean, they don't want to see Iraqi army in downtown Fallujah. They don't want to see coalition forces in downtown Fallujah. But if you see a police officer on the corner, that's a good thing.

MARTIN: Colonel Simcock says till more police academies are built, the alternative is to use these provincial security teams made up of untrained Iraqis with a history of shady alliances.

SIMCOCK: I think it's a short-term fix, but it is a fix in a time of crisis to get more people involved legally through a justified system in lieu of making them police just because we don't have enough academies to pump them through that way.

MARTIN: Qosai Abid says his wife questioned his decision to join the U.S. effort out of fear for his safety.

ABID: (Through translator) I told her that terrorism is over and with God's help we will finally be happy. Injustice cannot last forever. What lasts is justice and commitment.

MARTIN: U.S. forces are hoping that commitment lasts long enough for Iraqi security forces like these to stand on their own so that eventually coalition forces can stand down.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

MARTIN: Rachel Martin, NPR News, Baghdad.

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