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Paula Broadwell

Iraq's doomed police training

By Paula Broadwell
August 30, 2005
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IN SEPTEMBER 2003, the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs constructed the Jordan International Police Training Center outside of Amman to train Iraq law enforcement personnel. Sixteen nations provide a total of 352 police trainers for the center. The camp has a capacity to train 3,000 Iraqi police recruits in an eight-week basic police skills course and graduate 1,500 new police every month. New Iraqi police come away with a coveted paycheck ($150) and sufficiently trained and equipped to counter foreign intelligence operations, pandemic lawlessness in an anarchic society, and insurgents who target US troops or collaborators.

In April 2005 I had the chance to visit the center, the world's largest international police training camp. I am a military officer and have been deployed throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, but this was one of the nicest training posts I have ever seen. However, the comprehensive training I witnessed was disheartening. The Iraq coalition constituency deserves to know why this mission is likely to fail.

There are three main reasons why these forces will never be ready to defend their country: The wary, uncommitted recruits are immature and lackadaisical about the mission; the parsimonious training is inadequate; and accountability once recruits return to Iraq is inconsistent at best and lacks the return on investment that one would expect.

The recruit pool. According to international instructors at the camp, the troops are often recruited from among intimidated teenagers or disillusioned, desperate unemployed men left with few job prospects in their chaotic country. We aren't always getting the highest quality ''volunteers" because many of those have already joined the insurgency. Others are understandably concerned about their life expectancy if they join the police. In spite of most of the high-quality, experienced instructors, I learned that a clan relative of the Jordanian terrorist mastermind Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi was also an employee at the camp, adding an interesting element to operational security.

Return on Investment. Purportedly, about 40 to 60 percent of these graduates never actually join the Iraqi police force when they return from Jordan. They defect, taking their coveted pay and their new skills to the insidious insurgency, according to liaison officers in Iraq. Some are forced to give up the weapons they were issued at this camp to corrupt local police chiefs; these often end up on the black market. Others lose their firearms in insurgent raids on police stations. Sadly, too many are targeted immediately upon return to Iraq. Forty-six newly returned graduates on a bus were executed point-blank by insurgents this spring; more than 1,500 of those who have made it into the police force have died just this year.

Training. One would think that the greatest threat to police in Iraq stems from suicide bombs and improvised explosive devices. Yet even today there is still no training to counter these threats. How ironic that there has been no integration of such skills given the readily available standard operating procedures of special operations or the Army's IED Task Force.

Instructors admitted to me that their work was more about pumping out numbers, not about quality, reinforced training. One would think that high proficiency at firearms training, armed reconnaissance patrols, and perhaps self-defense would be requirements for graduation, yet the training for each skill lasts one week. Furthermore, there was no scheduled follow-up training in Iraq. At least trainers incorporated some human rights instruction and other virtuous skills one would hope to impart upon a nascent organization. Can these values be adequately imbued in one week of exposure?

The lack of long-term planning and reliance on quick-fix solutions seem to have metastasized in so many of our military operations. It is no wonder that more than 40 percent of my classmates have left active duty and that the Army struggles to meet recruiting goals. We need to do a better job with our accountability of how honorable plans are poorly implemented. While the Jordan training center has tremendous potential, the deficient manner in which the coalition struggles toward its goal of turning over Iraqi security illustrates another endeavor destined for failure.

Paula Broadwell, an Army captain, will be a PhD candidate in public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

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