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U.S. study: Insurgents infiltrate Iraq police

Report suggests turning over recruiting to Iraq government



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State Department

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Insurgents and other criminals have infiltrated Iraqi police ranks due to poor screening procedures by U.S. forces, according to a joint report released Monday by the U.S. Defense Department and State Department.

"Recruitment and vetting procedures are faulty," said the report from the inspectors general of both departments.

"Despite recent improvements, too many recruits are marginally literate; some show up for training with criminal records or physical handicaps."

The 100-page report went on to say there was "sufficient evidence to conclude" that insurgents were "among the ranks of the Iraq police service."

Insurgents have carried out numerous bombings at Iraqi police and army recruiting centers -- many of the attacks occurring as potential recruits waited in long lines outside.

More than 1,600 police have been killed in attacks in the past year, the report said.

The Bush administration has said getting Iraqi police properly trained is one of the key components in eventually bringing U.S. troops home, although the administration has refused to put a timetable on when that might occur.

To date, there are about 63,000 fully trained Iraqi police, according to Pentagon officials.

But the report acknowledged the difficulty in defining the number of police who are trained and equipped.

The United States has set a goal of training and equipping 135,000 police by the end of 2006.

"This emphasis on numbers overshadows the attention that should be given to the qualitative performance of those trained," the report said.

"There is a perception that training programs have produced 'cannon fodder' -- numbers of nominal policemen incapable of defending themselves, let alone the Iraqi public."

The report said Iraqi Ministry of Interior officials believe they would be better able to screen candidates, instead of the current process in which coalition military personnel conduct background checks on all incoming recruits.

The inspectors general team that carried out the study agreed with the Ministry of Interior, the report said.

Another key judgment in the report said Iraqi police training should be immediately handed over to the Iraqis. Otherwise, the coalition will be "destined to fall short in helping to create an effective police force."

Senior Pentagon officials said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has yet to be briefed on the report.

But senior commanders in Iraq have been briefed and "took the findings for what they were," said one senior Pentagon official.

A draft of the report was made available in May, and action has already been initiated in response to many of its recommendations, the inspectors general said in a press release.

The report comes after a recent Pentagon assessment on the status of Iraq reported that half of Iraqi police battalions were capable of carrying out operations against insurgents. (Full story)

Pentagon officials said the joint report was a snapshot from two to three months ago and some said recently that police recruiting has been improving.

The report did highlight some successes, citing a good performance from police during the January elections, increased visibility of police on the streets and polls reflecting positive public respect and confidence in the force.

"Although the Iraqi police force is not yet capable of single-handedly meeting security challenges, relevant coalition training efforts have resulted in a qualified success," according to the report.

To prepare the report, a six-member team spent about five weeks in February and March reviewing training programs in Jordan and Iraq. The report did not reflect developments after April.

On Monday, two police officers were among 14 Iraqis killed in two separate suicide car bombings in the country's capital, police officials and the Ministry of Defense reported. (Full story)

In the first attack, 12 Iraqis died and 16 were wounded when a car bomb detonated at a checkpoint for the Sadeer Hotel, a Defense Ministry statement said.

The vehicle exploded near a building housing guards for the hotel. Several guards were among the casualties, police said.

Later, a suicide car bomb killed two police officers and wounded 11 at an Iraqi police commando checkpoint in the west-central part of the city, said an emergency police official.

Meanwhile, the Sunni Arab delegation to the committee drafting Iraq's new constitution ended its boycott of the proceedings Monday, an aide to the committee's chairman said.

Twelve of the 15 members of the Sunni delegation staged the boycott last week following the assassination of a fellow member and one of his advisers. Two other members removed themselves from the delegation following insurgent threats.

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