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Wednesday, November 11, 2009     GET REAL

U.S. military seeks to soothe withdrawal tensions by accelerating Iraqi police training

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military, under pressure to meet a withdrawal deadline, has sought to accelerate efforts to develop Iraq's police force.   

Officials said the U.S. military has been pressing for the completion of police training courses in 2009 amid a sharp budget shortfall. They said the development of the police was deemed the key to stabilization of Iraq and the holding of peaceful elections in January 2010.

"What you are doing here today is making Baghdad safer," Iraqi Maj. Gen. Ali Adnan Yunis, a provincial police commander, said.

On Oct. 29, the Iraqi police graduated more than 1,600 cadets from a basic training course, Middle East Newsline reported. The three-month course included basic skills as well as counter-insurgency training.

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"A few of the classes covered [in recruit training] included basic first aid, human rights training, patrol training, small arms training and search techniques," U.S. Army Sgt. David Northup, an adviser to the police, said.

Officials said the U.S. program to develop and enhance the Iraqi police has been hampered by major budget cuts at the Iraqi Interior Ministry as well as the revived Al Qaida threat. They said Al Qaida has been identifying and intimidating some of the new personnel to cooperate in mass-casualty bombings.

"The IPs [Iraqi police officers] standing here are faced with a lot of obstacles just to make it to the training center, but they do the best they can with what they have," Northup said. "I have to give them a great deal of credit to make it to this point and graduate."

Police negligence has been blamed for the spate of Al Qaida suicide bombings in Baghdad over the last three months. Scores of police commanders and officers were suspended or dismissed amid allegations of corruption, negligence and ill discipline.

"Our mission here has been one of success," U.S. Army Col. Rudy Arruda, a deputy battalion commander, said. "There are now more Iraqi police that are qualified to protect and serve the people of Baghdad."

On Nov. 9, the Baghdad Police College graduated more than 1,000 cadets who completed a nine-month training program. The course included 50 female police officers, the first time women have participated in Iraqi forensic and investigations training.

Officials said most of the new police recruits would be deployed in Baghdad. They said the introduction of young motivated and trained police was vital to stop Al Qaida and other insurgency attacks on critical facilities throughout the country.

"When Baghdad is safer your families at home are safer," Yunis, the Iraqi police general, said.

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