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The army’s intelligence-gathering is so poor that it still largely depends on American-supplied information, one of the few functions the U.S. military still commands since pulling out of Iraq’s cities more than a year ago.

On each of three counterterrorism raids led by Iraqi police and army in Jalula, Mosul and al-Bailona in eastern Ninevah province over the last month, security forces accompanied by an AP reporter came up empty after expecting to capture insurgents or find weapons. A U.S. military spokesman said that was not unexpected because the number of recent al Qaeda arrests had taken many militants off the streets already, although he did not know how often it happened.

The army, like the police, is mostly Shiite, but has a Kurdish chief of staff, and since 2006 has allowed nearly 20,000 fired Sunni soldiers and officers to rejoin its ranks.

The concerns about security readiness are exacerbated by the political disarray resulting from the inconclusive March parliamentary elections. Although a Sunni-backed party narrowly topped the poll, Sunnis stand to be sidelined anew after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki allied with other Shiites in a grab for parliamentary power.

The result: Iraq is likely to be without a new government when the American combat role ends.

To the north, in the city of Mosul, a different security headache unfolds.

Mosul, one of the hottest fronts in the fight against the Sunni-dominated insurgency, is a prime example of the struggles of Iraq’s local and federal police. They are deeply divided over sectarian and cultural issues, turf and the question of who is better at stopping the militants.

Lt. Col. Taha Daham al-Mashhadani is a Sunni Arab in a city that is culturally split mostly among Sunnis, Kurds and Christians. Born and raised in Mosul, he oversees the 17th Tammuz neighborhood for the city police force, which is hired by local authorities and trained by Iraqis.

He seldom lets his family leave their house, fearing insurgent attacks. On a recent drive through 17th Tammuz, he refused to stop at checkpoints for fear of suicide bombers like those who killed three of his officers the week before.

Mosul people have had bad experiences with the Iraqi soldiers and police from outside the region, so Col. Mashhadani has tried to be the friendly neighborhood cop. “I met with the people and sent them a note: ‘To our families, to our friends, to our residents of Mosul …’ They had never heard of something like that,” he said.

That warmth, however, arouses the suspicions of the federal police tasked with counterterrorism in the city. Local police are too friendly with the people and can’t be trusted, says Gen. Mustafa Mahmood Mansour, operations officer for the 3rd Federal Police Division, based in Mosul.

“You have to have a cold heart to work with the federal police,” said Gen. Mansour, a Sunni from Baghdad. “The local police do not have the capability for it. Most of them are from Mosul, and they are from the same tribes.”

Nationally, the predominantly Shiite federal police became notorious during the sectarian conflict of 2006 and 2007, when officers allegedly worked alongside Shiite militias that kidnapped and murdered thousands of Sunnis. Interior Minister Jawad Bolani has since purged many of the most ardently sectarian commanders. But little has been done to change the heavy Shiite dominance.

Further stoking sectarian tensions was the April discovery of a secret prison in Baghdad where Sunni terrorism suspects — mostly from Mosul — were tortured. The prison was shut under U.S. pressure.

Now, the federal force of about 46,000 is viewed as generally effective, according to a 2009 U.S. Defense Department report to Congress. The local police, now numbering about 300,000 around the country, were judged far from adequate, the report said.

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