U.S. Officials Say Iraq's Forces Founder Under Rebel Assaults

The New York Times > International > Middle East > U.S. Officials Say Iraq's Forces Founder Under Rebel Assaults: "U.S. Officials Say Iraq's Forces Founder Under Rebel Assaults

Published: November 30, 2004

Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times
An Iraqi National Guard soldier watched several Iraqi men detained in a joint raid with American troops in the Old City of Mosul on Saturday.

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OSUL, Iraq, Nov. 29 - Iraqi police and national guard forces, whose performance is crucial to securing January elections, are foundering in the face of coordinated efforts to kill and intimidate them and their families, say American officials in the provinces facing the most violent insurgency.

For months, Iraqi recruits for both forces have been the victims of assassinations and car bombs aimed at lines of applicants as well as police stations. On Monday morning, a suicide bomber rammed a car into a group of police officers waiting to collect their salaries west of Ramadi, killing 12 people, Interior Ministry officials said.

While Bush administration officials say that the training is progressing and that there have been instances in which the Iraqis have proved tactically useful and fought bravely, local American commanders and security officials say both Iraqi forces are riddled with problems.

In the most violent provinces, they say, the Iraqis are so intimidated that many are reluctant to show up and do not tell their families where they work; they have yet to receive adequate training or weapons, present a danger to American troops they fight alongside, and are unreliable because of corruption, desertion or infiltration.

Given the weak performance of Iraqi forces, any major withdrawal of American troops for at least a decade would invite chaos, a senior Interior Ministry official, whose name could not be used, said in an interview last week.

South of Baghdad, where American troops are still trying to drive out insurgents after the recent offensive in Falluja, American officers warn their own troops to be prepared to 'duck and cover' to avoid stray shots fired by Iraqi recruits.

In the northern city of Mosul, almost the entire police force and large parts of several Iraqi National Guard battalions deserted during an insurgent uprising this month. Iraqi leaders had to use Guard battalions of Kurdish soldiers to secure the city, kindling ethnic tensions with Arabs. Police stations in western Mosul have perhaps several hundred officers in an area that is supposed to have several thousand.

For those brave enough to come to work, 'right now, all they're doing is looking out the window and making sure the bad guys aren't coming to get them,' said an American military official in Mosul, who did not want his name to be used.

In a telephone interview on Saturday, Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander overseeing training of the Iraqi security forces, acknowledged the shortcomings in the Iraqis' performance, particularly by the police in Mosul and in Anbar Province, which stretches west from Ramadi to the Syrian border.


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