Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Iraqi police training effort crumbles

Yesterday's Washington Post piece significantly asserted that "much of Kufa's American-trained police force joined the side of the Sadr forces when the firefight started in late morning." In today's Post, it is noted that a similar kind of welcoming was given to Mahdi militiamen by Iraqi police in Sadr City, Baghdad.

Similarly, the New York Times' John F. Burns reported yesterday:

"Taking advantage of an American policy that has largely kept American and other occupation troops out of volatile Shiite population centers like Sadr City, Najaf and Kufa, the militiamen succeeded in taking control of checkpoints and police stations in all three cities that had been staffed by the new Iraqi-trained police and civil defense force. Residents in the three centers said the Iraqis had abandoned their posts almost as soon as the militiamen appeared with their weapons, leaving the militiamen in unchallenged control..."

Indeed, today's New York Times picks up on this point in writing about Sadr City:

The detritus of battle scattered about the streets called into question the success of the plan for American-backed Iraqi police to take control of the city. "Mahdi Army men took over the police station," said a young man named Mohammed, speaking of the militiamen. "The Iraqi police don't like problems. So they stepped aside and said, `Welcome.' "

And from Kufa, another Times article notes that "on Sunday, as part of the uprising orchestrated by Mr. Sadr, hundreds of militiamen took over Kufa, driving out Iraqi security forces. On Monday, blue-and-white Iraqi police trucks cruised the streets. But it was bearded, black-clad men loyal to Mr. Sadr who were driving them. The police stations and government offices are now occupied by Mr. Sadr's agents, who enforce an austere version of Islam and have even set up their own religious courts and prisons. The town is basically an occupation-free zone."

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