Monday, September 27, 2010

Anbar Awakening Angered By Move To Fire And Demote Local Police

The Washington Post reported on September 26, 2010 that the Interior Ministry has issued orders to fire or demote 410 policemen in Anbar province. One of the Deputy Interior Ministers said that the government is conducting a review of all the police in the country to see whether they are qualified or not. He said the police in question in Anbar didn’t graduate from any police academies, had no education, and were not approved by the Anbar provincial council. Their options were to quit or to be demoted to street police. 95 others in the governorate are going to be sent for training. In total, Anbar has around 30,000 police. The issue is politically sensitive because all of the policemen are from the Anbar Awakening, and were given jobs through the U.S. military.

Some of the police officers went to the offices of Sheikh Abu Risha, the head of the Awakening of Iraq political party that jointly controls the provincial council. Together they called on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reverse the Interior Ministry’s order, calling it sectarian.

In 2005 tribes in Anbar began turning against Al Qaeda in Iraq. By 2006 these forces had coalesced into the Anbar Awakening. They eventually began receiving American aid, and thousands were recruited into the local police force. In Ramadi, one of the hotbeds of the insurgency, 400 tribesmen joined the police in November 2006, followed by 1,000 in December, and another 800 in January 2007. By March it was reported that 6,000 Awakening fighters were in the province’s security forces, with another 2,500 in Emergency Response Units. Some were sent for training, but others were not. This was all part of an American strategy to divide the Sunni population from the foreign led Islamists, and to create an indigenous police force. The move was welcomed at the time by Baghdad, who saw the Awakening as an Iraqi creation.

Since almost all of the police in Anbar are from tribes, the number the Interior Ministry wants to reassign is so small, and the government has never been opposed to the Awakening, it’s hard to see the move as a political one. In fact, the Interior Minister Jawad Bolani ran with Sheikh Abu Risha in the Unity of Iraq list in the March 2010 election. The real question seems to be why can’t the 410 Anbar policemen be sent to a police academy since 95 others are already headed there. The move also comes at a time when Al Qaeda and other insurgents are trying to assert themselves with renewed attacks to coincide with the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The Ministry’s order then can only create tensions in the province at a sensitive time, and should be reconsidered.

SOURCES

Ali, Ahmed, “Iraq’s Elections Challenge: A Shifting Political Landscape,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 11/20/09

Fadel, Leila, “Iraq’s Awakening stripped of their police ranks,” Washington Post, 9/26/10

Fletcher, Martin, “Fighting back: the city determined not to become al-Qaeda’s capital,” Times of London, 11/20/06

Hassan, Hussein, “Iraq: Tribal Structure, Social, and Political Activities,” Congressional Research Service, 3/15/07

Kagan, Kimberly, “The Anbar Awakening: Displacing al Qaeda from Its Stronghold in Western Iraq,” Institute For The Study of War and WeeklyStandard.com, 4/3/07

Kukis, Mark, “Turning Iraq’s Tribes Against Al-Qaeda,” Time, 12/26/06

Partlow, Joshua, “Sheiks Help Curb Violence in Iraq’s West, U.S. Says,” Washington Post, 1/27/07

Pitman, Todd, “Sunni Sheiks Join Fight Vs. Insurgency,” Associated Press, 3/25/07

Tyson, Ann Scott, “A Deadly Clash at Donkey Island,” Washington Post, 8/19/07

Wong, Edward, “An Iraqi Tribal Chief Opposes the Jihadists, and Prays,” New York Times, 3/3/07

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