LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
Today a look at Iraq's security services in the last part of our examination of continuing challenges there. As U.S. troops draw down in Iraq, the security forces that the U.S. established, trained, and supported will have to assume control. Right now the Iraqi Army has a major role in securing many Iraqi cities. Eventually the Iraqi police will take over that role. The Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin, says the police need more training.
Lt. Gen. LLOYD AUSTIN (Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq): I think the police have improved and are improving, but we have a ways to go.
WERTHEIMER: And at this stage, the Iraqi security forces don't all trust each other. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro traveled to the predominately Sunni city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, where there are tensions among the different security branches.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is no doubt that the city of Samarra, once a haven of the Sunni-led insurgency in Iraq, is safer.
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GARCIA-NAVARRO: Shops in the center are opened and busy. Hundreds of Shiite pilgrims make their way every day now to the Al Askari Mosque. The golden dome of the Shiite shrine is being rebuilt after it was blown up by Sunni insurgents in 2006 — an event that set off years of bitter sectarian bloodletting.
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GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is security all around this city. Shiite-dominated national police control the area around the mosque. The Sunni local police and the Sons of Iraq — former insurgents who became U.S.-backed paramilitaries — also have their checkpoints. The Iraqi army encircles Samarra. It is an often uneasy alliance.
Inside Samarra's local police station, Officer Adnan Shakir, who works in the investigation unit, says things are better, but…
Officer ADNAN SHAKIR (Police Officer): (Through translator) It's a fragile safety, it's a cautious quiet.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The problem, he says, is mistrust between the different branches of the security forces here, especially between the local Sunni policemen like himself and the mostly Shiite national police.
Officer SHAKIR: (Through translator) The national police don't know how to deal with the people here. They're outsiders. There are always problems with them; when there is any problem, they use their weapons.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says many of the complaints they investigate come from local residents regarding abuses by the national police. Some are serious. Several women have come forward saying they were raped or assaulted by members of the national police.
Captain Waleed Abdul Rahman is the head of the major crimes division at the station.
Captain WALEED ABDUL RAHMAN (Police Officer): (Through Translator) One girl claimed that the police commandos violated her. In another case, a girl was kidnapped and her family claimed that she had been abducted by a national policeman and taken to Baghdad.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Captain Abdul Rahman says the first case was never investigated. The second girl was slain by her family in a so-called honor killing when she returned home.
The captain says they generally don't take the complaints of assault and rape seriously.
But without an investigation, it's hard to determine the truth of the allegations or how widespread the problem may be.
Meanwhile, rumors of the assaults have spread to members of the paramilitary forces.
At a checkpoint, two Sons of Iraq members — who are Sunnis from Samarra — say they have heard about the incidents.
Asad Younis says they consider the Shiite-dominated national police a threat.
Mr. ASAD YOUNIS(Sons of Iraq): (Through translator) They harass girls without the knowledge of the local police. They are doing these terrible acts and we want something to be done about it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: His partner, Mohammed Aziz Khalaf, interrupts him.
Mr. MOHAMMED AZIZ KHALAF (Sons of Iraq): (Through translator) This issue about what's happen to the girls of Samarra has become intolerable.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Back at the local police station, Captain Abdul Rahman has his own concerns about the impartiality of a local judge. The judge has recently put out several warrants to arrest members of the police in connection with the death of a prisoner while in detention. The captain says the autopsy showed that he died of natural causes.
He alleges that the judge is in the pocket of al-Qaida and is trying to undermine law and order here.
Captain RAHMAN: (Through translator) We in the security forces won't be able to do our work without fear if for the simplest reasons the judge investigates us. Al-Qaida will come back here stronger than before, and conditions will be worse than before if we are targeted by the people who are supposed to be our allies.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: He has asked the Americans to intervene. Another police officer who works here, Saif Saad, says he is worried about what will happen when the Americans pull out. The security forces, he says, are divided and mistrustful of each other.
Mr. SAIF SAAD (Police Officer): (Through translator) When the Americans pull out, there will be conflicts for certain. The national police follow their leaders, as do the local police, as do the Sons of Iraq. Everyone is looking out for their own interests; that is the truth.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says for now the Americans are able to limit the tensions. But he says he worries that things could go bad here very quickly once they are gone.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Samarra.
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