Foreign Minister Alexander Downer wrote this week that, “the time to leave Iraq is when Iraqi forces are able themselves to take over full responsibility for the security of their country…The time frame is going to depend entirely on how the capacity of the Iraqi forces develops. Good progress has been made, with the training of approximately 300,000 Iraqi security forces.”
As usual with the Howard government, the latest Bush administration talking points must be still in the overnight bag.
According to a page-one story in the Washington Post this week, “seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias” and “police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swathes of the capital.” Good police exist, but many are being murdered or quitting.
Captain Alexander Show, head of a US-based team tasked to oversee training of Iraqi police in western Baghdad, asks: “How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don’t even trust them not to kill our own men? To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure we’re ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence.”
A recent classified briefing paper issued by the US Central Command stated that the country was edging towards chaos and also claimed that Downer’s much-celebrated “security forces” were either ineffective or infiltrated by militias.
One of the major failings of current reporting is the (understandable) reluctance of Western journalists to leave their Baghdad hotels and Iraqi stringers not receiving the credit they deserve. A notable exception is the collaboration of Dahr Jamail – one of the best independent journalists in the region – with local, accredited, on-the-ground journalists. Their latest report details life for civilians in Fallujah and concludes that the city is in virtual lock-down.
A member of the city’s council said that they “have no role to play because the Americans always prefer violent solutions that have led from one disaster to another.” American soldiers may be dying at an ever-increasing rate, but Iraqi civilians are bearing the brunt of the country’s descent into mayhem.
The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn is currently in northern Iraq and his latest dispatch outlines the fears of the Shia community that the US is moving to side with the Sunni Arabs, many of whom have supported the insurgency:
“The US has long been trying to conciliate the Sunni community, but despite talks with insurgent leaders in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the US has yet to make any headway in negotiations to end the fighting.”
Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston claims that “we” haven’t lost the war but “victory” is now surely judged on how effectively foreign forces can withdraw under fire.