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Iraqi Security: In Their Own Hands?

December 18, 2006
(CBS) Every morning, most Baghdad residents hope for a day without violence. On most days, they're disappointed.

From gun fights in the streets, to deadly car bombs in marketplaces, to brazen daylight kidnappings, Iraq has become a fertile crescent of insecurity. Yesterday, their version of the Red Cross, the Red Crescent Society, shut down indefinitely after gunmen in uniforms kidnapped thirty more people, some of whom were quickly released.

According to Mazin Abdellaha of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, "We asked some of those who are already free and they don't know who kidnapped them. They just said that they were military men with the uniform of the Iraqi police."

Many Iraqis fear that the people who are supposed to protect them may be causing the mayhem because the insurgents have infiltrated security forces. Laith Hamza, a civilian interpreter for the American military, says he's seen old fashioned corruption continue under the new government. "It's too easy to bribe them," says Hamza. "They have many connections with the militia, to get their family safe and to get money also."

According to Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard, Commander of the Iraqi Assistance Group, there are going to be some stumbles along the way. "It won't be perfect," says Pittard, "but the progress that we've seen since the first national police brigade graduated last significant. I think we'll see that over time."

For the American commanders in charge of training Iraqi security forces, it isn't an easy job. A key test is whether or not Iraqi officials are willing to root out favoritism and sectarianism - whether there is the will and ability to promote leaders who are loyal to the government and not their religious sect or tribe.

"We've seen over time national police commanders with sectarian leanings being removed, or suspected of sectarian leanings being removed," says Pittard. "You add to the training program that's going on right now with our embedded transition teams and we're very hopeful of the national police."

While the White House mulls over sending more U.S. Troops to reduce the current round of attacks, U.S. Commanders here on the ground continue to stress the need to hand over military operations to Iraqis. Five-thousand Americans are now assigned to train and monitor the new forces of Iraqis. For better or worst, it comes down to trust.

Brig. Gen. Terry Wolff, commander of the Coalition Military Assistance Training, says "We presently control the ammunition depot and we're going to turn that over to them here in the next couple of months because they are capable of running that. So you kind of get into this dynamic of assimilation versus dependency over time and you have to decide when should you transition."

In other words, when do you hand over control to the Iraqis? The goal is to build a ten division force in the army. Iraq's Prime Minister believes his new security forces will be able to handle all of Baghdad by March, and the entire country by next fall. The U.S. Military says they're doing all they can to make sure Iraqis are ready to assume responsibility for their own country.
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