Cablegate: Policing and Security in Southern Iraq

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. The primary concern for Iraqis throughout the southern
region continues to be security. The security situation is
improving gradually due to the efforts of Coalition forces
to establish new Iraqi police forces, but much work remains.
The lack of adequate resources or clear guidelines for local
units managing policing initiatives has led to great
inconsistency in the structures and activities in each city
or town. In An Nasiriyah former police officers within
Coalition units are recruiting a local police force drawn
mostly from former police and limited in size by the ability
of Coalition patrols to monitor the activities of local
police. In Basrah, Coalition military police (MP) are
conducting joint patrols with unarmed local recruits that
have little to no police training. In Al Amarah, Coalition
MPs are using a similar model as in Basrah with additional
security provided by two local Marsh Arab militias. In other
towns, local leaders have declined offers of assistance from
Coalition forces and are self-policing. The success of
local policing initiatives is dependent on the development
of an adequate legal system to provide the rules under which
police may function. If civil unrest is to be avoided,
these stopgap measures must be followed quickly by more
systematic management of local security and justice issues
that builds on local initiatives already in place. End


2. The original police force in An Nasiriyah (including
traffic police) was close to 3,000 people. Through
conversations with re-recruited police, Coalition forces
have concluded that policing was a default profession for
many men who could not find other jobs. As of 2 May, the
new police force was comprised of approximately 300 men who
were registered and accepted by the Coalition in conjunction
with the town council to serve as policemen. They were
still unarmed, but Coalition forces had plans to arm the
police once they felt more comfortable with the recruits
they had selected. Many more men wanted to register but
Coalition forces did not have the capacity to monitor a
larger group. The Coalition was slowly trying to vet the
new recruits through interviews and other checks against
intelligence information. Several former policemen serving
with the Coalition forces controlling the town volunteered
to help with the recruitment and training of this police
force. Though policing was not their primary
responsibility, these former police stepped in as the
driving force behind the reactivation of local policing in
An Nasiriyah.

3. One Coalition officer reported that his troops
conducting patrols in the town were spread very thin. He
said that his one battalion was covering an area that would
normally be controlled by three battalions. The four
companies within his battalion were each assigned a section
of the town to patrol every two hours. House to house
searches for weapons were completed and many weapons were
confiscated and destroyed. However, many private citizens
still have guns.

4. While Coalition patrols had not been fired upon in the
last weeks of April, they reported continued shooting among
the local population. The shooting appeared to be isolated,
and Coalition forces attributed it to low-level crime or
"score-settling" between individuals or families. Citizens
reported incidents to Coalition forces either on patrol or
at the police station. For example, on 1 May, a woman came
to the police station and reported that four days prior,
seven men entered her home at night and shot her husband and
son. Both men had returned from hospital and were
recovering from their bullet wounds. She gave Coalition
forces a list of individuals she thought were responsible,
and it included two of the newly recruited police.
Coalition forces are investigating this particular incident,
but this illustrates the problem of recourse for victims
against police or other authority figures once the Coalition
forces pull out.

5. The scope of the violence remains limited in An
Nasiriyah to individual incidents and has not become
widespread between larger groups within the town. However,
the number of incident reports received from the population
and the general level of fear in the town increased over the
three days prior to the DART visit on 2 May. This increase
corresponded to the release of approximately 100 enemy
prisoners of war (EPWs) into An Nasiriyah each day over the
previous three days. Though unable to confirm whether the
release of EPWs back into the town was the cause of the
increased fear among the population, Coalition forces are
concerned that some of the newly released EPWs were trying
to reinsert themselves in the town through fear. While the
population continues to be reassured by their presence,
Coalition forces are concerned about a security vacuum when
they leave in a few months.

6. Local leaders in the smaller towns around An Nasiriyah
have told Coalition forces that they want to police
themselves. When offered assistance in policing, local
leaders have refused the assistance and said they prefer to
handle community security on their own. These small towns
are reportedly "taking care of" the local Fedayeen
themselves as well.


7. There were 6,000 police officers in Basrah before the
conflict. After the serious and widespread looting
throughout Basrah toward the end of April, the Coalition
military police (MPs) began an initiative to recruit and
train a new local police force. They have compiled a
database of over 2,000 names of applicants. The Coalition
is validating individuals through a system of intelligence
checks and interviews with the applicants and others in the
town. They are beginning to further organize the force into
units with approximately 700 regular police participating in
joint patrols with the Coalition MPs and troops as on-the-
job training. On 10 May, 460 traffic police joined a 500-
person "guard" force to protect important stationary
infrastructure. In addition to the police force, the
Coalition MPs have begun a licensing process for private
security guards. There are now four police stations open in
Basrah city and three others in surrounding areas.

8. Applicants to the police force are a mixture of former
police and new recruits. While the majority are former
police, the higher-level officers in the former force have
disappeared and the returning recruits are from the lower
levels and often had jobs not directly related to policing.
The Coalition MP providing the description of the training
initiative to the DART said the former police force had many
drivers, administrators, and cleaners, but very few
employees actually involved in proper police responses and
investigations. Therefore, most of the recruits, whether
new recruits or former police, need basic police training.
Recruits are participating in joint patrols with the
Coalition troops and MPs for on-the-job training but the
Coalition is still controlling and monitoring all activities
closely. The MPs also have put together mobile training
teams that visit the various stations and train
approximately 20 people at a time in basic rules of
evidence, use of force, etc. They also have plans for a
police academy that can train and professionalize the new
police force more formally, but they have not yet identified
funding for this initiative.

9. The primary challenge to the training of new police is
the lack of a basic legal system to regulate the police
procedures. The lack of a legal system with judges and due
process in place also presents challenges to the ability of
the Coalition forces and local police to detain or process
criminals. For now, low-level criminals such as petty
looters are arrested, warned and released. If they find
repeat offenders, they keep them longer but still have no
means to process these individuals. Coalition forces are
detaining perpetrators of 13 types of serious crime such as
rape or murder, and sending them down to the EPW camp in Umm
Qasr because there is nowhere locally to detain them.
Reportedly, about 150 such detentions have taken place under
Coalition authority.

10. The policing efforts in Al Amarah are following the
same model as in Basrah with one interesting difference.
Residents of Al Amarah are very proud to refer to themselves
as "self-liberated" since they expelled most of the Baath
Party before the arrival of any Coalition forces. The chief
of police, a former Baath Party member, changed sides to
join those opposing the regime just a few days before this
self-liberation took place. He is still the chief of
police, and most of the existing local police force stayed
in place wearing the same uniforms as before the conflict
began. Two powerful Marsh Arab leaders from the 1991
uprising also have re-emerged with their own local militias,
which participated in this "self-liberation" and are now are
helping to patrol and secure the town. Local leaders,
including the militias, have accepted Coalition oversight,
and Coalition forces have told them that there is no place
in Iraq for militias in the future. For now though, these
armed militias that wear civilian clothes are helping with
security by manning checkpoints and providing an expanded
security coverage in the town. As a result, Al Amarah has
had fewer problems with security and crime than other
places. Looting and damage to government buildings was
limited to about two days before coalition forces arrived.

11. There may be troubling long-term implications, however,
of relying on a militia to supplement the joint patrols by
Coalition troops and civilian police. It may be difficult
to get the militias to give up power. In Al Amarah a new
local judicial structure is well on the way to establishment
by local lawyers that have elected new judges. They have
issued proclamations on their desires for a new justice
system in that Governorate. If supported and strengthened,
this local initiative appears to have the potential to
create checks on power consolidation in the town. The
judges and lawyers are awaiting authorization and legitimacy
to be granted for their proposed system from the Office of
Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) in
Baghdad. Details on this emerging legal structure will be
reported via septel.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
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12. Another critical need related to the new local police
forces is the payment of salaries. Along with all civil
servants, new police are eager to receive their salaries.
Due to the delay in getting a national scheme for the
payment of civil servants in place, Coalition forces are
trying to solve the problem. In An Nasiriyah, the new town
council identified state money in a local bank that they
authorized the Coalition to use to pay salaries of
approximately 50,000 civil servants in the governorate.
They were using a pay scale of USD 10 equivalent for
unskilled labor, USD 15 for skilled labor, and a maximum of
USD 22 for managerial positions. The exchange rate used was
1400 Iraqi dinar per dollar. The police were the first of
the civil servants to be paid in early May. Coalition
forces estimated they had enough Iraqi dinars to pay two
months' worth of salaries for all the civil servants in the
Governorate. They turned money over to the heads of
individual departments for dispersement to their staff.
Similarly Coalition forces have identified local cash
reserves in banks and used them to pay initial salaries to
police in Basrah.


13. Important issues related to providing needed security
in Iraq including policing, paying civil servant salaries,
protecting sensitive documents and physical evidence,
developing local judicial structures, and rebuilding social
infrastructure are being addressed through the creative
efforts of local units of the Coalition, non-governmental
organizations (NGOs), and emerging local Iraqi leadership.
While these initiatives are addressing the most pressing
needs for now, none are adequate or sustainable over the
medium- to long-term without support. The legal parameters
developing in the broader system in Baghdad should be
communicated to the military units and local leaders in the
various Governorates working on policing and local justice.
Such guidance should encourage these emerging local
initiatives in the right direction toward a locally driven,
yet consistent system of security and justice for the new


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