- The Washington Times - Monday, July 25, 2005

Iraq’s police force has suffered from inadequate recruiting and screening of candidates, apparently even allowing some insurgents to join, a U.S. government report said yesterday.

Even so, the study by the inspectors general at the Defense and State departments said the effort to build up Iraq’s police agencies has been a qualified success.

The military, in a written response, said it is addressing most of the concerns raised by the study. The investigation concluded in April, and Pentagon officials said many of the proposed changes already are being implemented.

A functioning Iraqi police force and an Iraqi military that is capable of fighting the insurgency without American help are regarded as critical before U.S. troops can leave the country.

One of the report’s key criticisms was that coalition military personnel are not able to find and screen candidates properly for the police force.

“Inducting criminals into the [Iraqi police] is a continual concern. Even more troubling is infiltration by intending terrorists or insurgents. There is sufficient evidence to conclude that such persons indeed are among the ranks” of Iraqi police, the report said.

The Iraqis are better able to pick recruits than U.S. and allied military personnel, it said.

Iraqis’ language skills and cultural knowledge make them better able to detect potential problem candidates, particularly without reliable records, the report suggested.

“Despite recent improvements, too many recruits are marginally literate; some show up for training with criminal records or physical handicaps, and some recruits allegedly are infiltrating insurgents,” the document said.

About 1,600 Iraqi police died in the year before the report was prepared, it said. Police and recruiting stations have been targeted by suicide bombers.

Only about 30,000 Iraqi police stayed in their jobs after the U.S.-led invasion. The country now has about 93,800 trained and equipped personnel under the command of its Interior Ministry, including 63,500 Iraqi police.

These figures include Iraqi personnel who might have deserted the force. The rest includes a mix of special operations forces, bodyguards and other security troops.

In Iraq yesterday, Sunni Arab members of a committee drafting a new constitution ended their boycott, six days after jeopardizing the credibility of the nascent political process by walking out in protest over the assassinations of two fellow Sunni constitution framers.

Also yesterday, a minibus packed with explosives detonated at a checkpoint outside a hotel once used by American contractors, killing at least 12 persons and injuring at least 18, hospital officials and police said.

A U.S. soldier was killed when a roadside bomb exploded under his vehicle near Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. command said. The soldier was assigned to Task Force Liberty, which oversees security in a large area of the Sunni Triangle, the center of the insurgency.

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