By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 5, 2007 - Though the rapid growth of Iraq's Interior Ministry has posed challenges, the Iraqis are forging ahead with the process, the commander of the coalition police assistance training team in Iraq said yesterday. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Jones spoke to Web journalists and "bloggers" via telephone from his headquarters in Baghdad.
The Interior Ministry has grown 450 percent since 2003, he said. "As I thought about it, I tried to imagine if this was the U.S. Army," he said. If the Army grew at the same rate, there would be an active force of more than 2 million people, he said.
Any organization growing at that rate would have challenges, the general said. "It seemed to me we'd have a huge problem with facilities, equipment, training, the processes that we use, shortage of leaders and a whole bunch of other things," he said. "But in addition to that, there are some other challenges."
These include the wholesale replacing of mid-level management in the ministry because of the de-Baathification process. "You also have a multiparty system where political appointees aren't from all the same political party, but they actually are from several different ones," he said. "What that means is that there are going to be some frictions that occur just because they are not people who help each other work together. And then we also have kind of a change in what the expectation of the ministry is."
Before 2003, the Interior Ministry and the police were not really in charge of Iraq's internal security, he said. Under deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, the military, the Republican Guard, special troops and paramilitary forces were really in control of internal security. "The police were kind of fourth and fifth fiddle to the others," Jones said. "And now they are getting the responsibility to move into the first-fiddle role."
Add to this an insurgency that thrived on intimidation and violence, and there is no doubt that the Interior Ministry personnel have had a challenging time, he noted.
But even with the challenges, there has been progress, he said. Police officer recruiting remains strong, he said. The Iraqis continue to generate and equip police forces. "They are beginning themselves to contract for equipment, and take on some institutional functions that up to now they've been completely dependent on the coalition for," he said. "And they are incrementally assuming responsibility for training and life support, things that we have been doing for them."
And the Iraqis are beginning to make progress from a ministerial standpoint as well, Jones said. The Iraqis have reorganized the ministry to be more functional, and they have created an internal affairs organization to investigate corruption and allegations of sectarianism.
"They have a functioning pay system where they pay all of their folks -- we are not involved in that any more," he said. "And they have made a tremendous effort at national police reform that we're seeing have significant effects."
But change is slow, he said. Building an institution like the Interior Ministry is a work of years, not months. "And quite frankly, there are enemies who don't want this to be successful, and are working pretty hard to make it fail," he said.
Building the ministry will take hard, tough work, the general said. "But I'm fairly impressed, the willingness and the effort that the ministry is making to tackle the problems and to bring them to a resolution," he said.