By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
July 13, 2007 – Following an incident in Baghdad today where Iraqi police engaged U.S. troops in a firefight, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Marine Gen. Peter Pace vowed U.S. forces will "track down" the attackers. "We are going to go after these networks that are killing our soldiers and Marines regardless of where that network leads," Pace told reporters at the Pentagon. "Sometimes it leads to Iranians, sometimes it leads to Iraqis, sometimes it leads to al Qaeda. Wherever the network takes us, we are going to track them down and deal with them."
Pace spoke about the attack during a press conference with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The chairman said first reports indicated Iraqi police engaged U.S. troops when the Americans were taking into custody an Iraqi police lieutenant believed to be responsible for attacks against Americans.
What does this attack reveal about the reliability of the Iraqi security forces, a reporter asked Gates.
"I think we've been pretty straightforward in saying all along that the Iraqi police were a challenge, that we were reasonably content with the progress of the Iraqi army and their reliability, but that the sectarian nature of some of the Iraqi police and especially some of the senior officers was a concern," Gates replied.
"A number of Iraqi senior police officials have been removed because they were regarded as sectarian, and they've been removed by the Iraqi government," he said. "So it is a challenge, and I don't think anybody's ever made any bones about the fact that the training and the capability and the reliability of the Iraqi police was very uneven and in some areas a real concern."
A reporter then asked Pace: "How does an American soldier or a Marine fight alongside these forces when they don't know whether they're friendly or they're the enemy from one minute to the next?"
When the Iraqi police with the lieutenant began firing on the American troops, he said, "that turned those individuals into enemy and legitimate folks for our troops to take on in combat."
"The fact of the matter is that there are elements of the Iraqi police and elements of Iraqi army that are infiltrated, and the Iraqi government is working very hard to work their way through that," Pace said. "They've taken police brigades out of the field. They've re-vetted all of the members. They've gotten rid of as much as 25 percent in some units, put in new recruits, retrained and put them back in the field."
The Iraqi government and coalition forces are doing all they can to improve the quality of the police forces, Pace said. "But the bottom line is going to be that we are going to defend ourselves, and we are going to go after those networks that are attacking our guys."