U.S. Military Questions Iraqi Government's Resolve The U.S. military says it can't leave Iraq until there's a stronger government in place. But over the past few weeks, U.S. commanders have repeatedly expressed frustration with the Iraqi government. They say Iraq's government hasn't been able to provide essential services, weed out corruption or rein in brutal militias.
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U.S. Military Questions Iraqi Government's Resolve

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U.S. Military Questions Iraqi Government's Resolve

U.S. Military Questions Iraqi Government's Resolve

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Anne Garrels joins us now from Baghdad. Good morning.

ANNE GARRELS: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: What triggered this rash of criticism?

GARRELS: Well, U.S. commanders have been conducting expanded operations in Baghdad to try to clear up the most violent neighborhoods, and part of that plan is then for Iraq's government ministries to go in with services to show progress. But as one senior officer lamented, you've got American generals touring the neighborhoods picking up trash, but no sign of the Iraqis. In the meantime, there were more suicide bomb attacks last week than in any week since the American-led invasion of 2003. And while death squad activity initially dropped in the areas that the U.S. is clearing in Baghdad, a senior intelligence official told reporters yesterday that they're re-emerging, possibly with the help from people in the Ministry of the Interior.

MONTAGNE: Who all, together, do officials believe are behind these killings?

GARRELS: But, he said, Sadr has apparently lost control of up to a third of his militia men, and he called these rogue elements who believe Sadr's no longer sufficiently radical. And according to this senior official, six major Mehdi leaders no longer answer to Sadr and now are basically selling their services to the highest bidders. And this is where he said Iran comes in. Iran is trying to take advantage of this.

MONTAGNE: And to what degree do American officials believe Iran is involved?

GARRELS: This senior intelligence official cited shipments of weapons and explosives with labels that trace back to Iranian stockpiles or weapons manufacturers. And he said because military-grade explosives are carefully controlled by the Iranian government, there has to be some official involvement.

MONTAGNE: Anne, you just mentioned official Iraqi corruption. Today in the Washington Post there's a story suggesting possible American corruption, or at least mismanagement, in the construction of Iraq's new police academy. That's a $75 million project. What can you tell us about that?

GARRELS: This police academy issue is particularly embarrassing because the U.S. military had declared this - the year of the police - with concentrated efforts to expand and improve training of recruits and clean up the death squads within that force. Instead, you know, officials are saying the U.S. is busy cleaning out the police academy building, where sewage is running down the walls.

MONTAGNE: Thanks, Anne, very much. NPR's Anne Garrels speaking from Baghdad.

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