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May 11, 2006
Iraq To Unify Baghdad Force

The new Iraqi government has decided to remove the confusion of having various security forces for different ministries operating in the greater Baghdad area and consolidate all such units into one cohesive force. The concern over confusion between actual government forces and the sectarian militias has crescendoed with the recent violence in the capital, and a unified command would resolve those issues immediately:

Senior Iraqi leaders are preparing a major restructuring of the capital's security brigades that would place all police officers and paramilitary soldiers under a single commander and in one uniform, in hopes of curtailing the sectarian chaos that is ravaging the city.

The reorganization calls for a substantially reduced presence of American soldiers on the capital's streets, although not necessarily in their numbers nationwide.

The plan, disclosed Wednesday in interviews with senior Iraqi leaders, would substantially alter Baghdad's landscape, now permeated by tens of thousands of police officers, soldiers and paramilitary troops whose identities and allegiances are not always clear.

Private militias and death squads have flourished in such an environment, with Iraqi officials acknowledging that they do not control all of the armed groups operating in Baghdad. Such militias, some of them acting with official cover, have been blamed for much of the mayhem and killing that have become routine in the capital.

The centerpiece of the plan calls for consolidating the multitude of security agencies under a single command, with one easily identifiable uniform. Iraqi officials say that would give them greater flexibility to combat the insurgency and identify rogue elements within their ranks.

Until the elected permanent government had been formed, this issue could not get resolution. In the absence of a strong executive, the ministries ran their own programs and commanded their own security forces, which often worked at cross purposes, to put it mildly. Even without the sectarian militias operating in the city, such an organizational mess would create rivalries and even gang mentality within the ranks of the forces. It also makes it difficult for the residents and businesses within Baghdad to work with police and security forces when they oppose each other.

The new government hopes to get Baghdad pacified within a month. That will take the cooperation of the Sunnis, who may not want to see all security forces (and arms) consolidated under Shi'ite command. However, even the Sunnis will understand that uncontrolled militia forces on both sides represents a clearer danger and risk than a single unified command operating with the direction of elected officials. Whether the militias will go along with this is another question mark, but at least they will not find it as easy to sow confusion within the city.

Iraq seems to be taking the correct approach to establishing its own credibility on security. They plan to rely less on American forces in securing Baghdad, which is also the right idea to pursue. Their timetable sounds unrealistic, but their plan should bring stability and security to the most strategic area of Iraq.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 11, 2006 6:43 AM

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