Iraqi security forces on trial as US combat operation ends

While US forces are withdrawing from Iraq, 36 people have just fallen victim to a recent triple car bombing in Baghdad, leading some to question whether the country is able to sustain stability and security on its own.

Even after the official end of America’s combat operation in Iraq, 50,000 US troops still remain in the country to assist local forces. Their body armor, however, does little to protect against the fact that they are not welcome here.

The remaining team’s mission is to provide training, support and back-up to the Iraqi police. Lieutenant Ryan Alexander described how the training works.

“When they get to our level we go over the… planning for the actual missions we are going to do. Then we do a pre-brief, and then we actually go out and execute these types of missions,” he said.

Still, the US ambition to have a fully functioning Iraqi security force did not protect Safaia Ismael’s husband. Four years ago he disappeared without a trace.

“He called me and said he was coming to pick me up,” she told RT. “I [told him] the situation is really bad, do not come, but he said, ‘No, I have to come’.”

Safaia has not seen her husband since then and she is certain that he is dead. Her case is not unique: tens of thousands Iraqis have disappeared since 2003.

Human rights organizations put some of the blame on the local security forces whose trainees are not always the right candidates for the job.

“A lot of them have come from illiterate backgrounds,” said Hanaa Edwar from Al-Amal human rights association. “Some of them are just from the tribes and the clans.”

The problem is compounded by the limited training they are given.

In Baghdad you cannot drive more than a few hundred meters before being stopped at a checkpoint. Each police officer here has received four months of training that prepares them to search vehicles for car bombs, missing weapons and stolen identity cards. However, it is a far cry from what is needed.

According to spokesman for the Iraqi Defense Ministry, General Mohammed Al-Askari, the problem is that Americans started to create Iraqi army way too late.

“They are not untrained, but the training they receive is no enough,” he said. “The Americans only thought to create an Iraqi army in 2004. By then it was too late, because the terrorists had already infiltrated.”

With the increase of violence in Iraq in recent weeks, the need for a competent domestic security force has never been greater. Whether or not the US and Iraq can rise to the challenge has yet to be seen.