Small Wars Journal

Building Capacity in Iraq -- Police Forces

One of the key areas to build security capacity in Iraq is the development, training, equipping, and sustaining of the police forces under the Ministry of Interior. The mission of the Ministry of Interior is to "provide the Iraqi citizens with a free and peaceful society through its security forces. The Ministry of Interior forces arrest people who threaten the stability and security of Iraq in the civil sector, combat terrorism and continues to improve its forces to ensure order throughout Iraq. The Ministry of Interior is here to serve the public of Iraq."

As part of the Ministry of Interior, the Iraqi Police Services (IPS) have the mission to "serve the public by providing law enforcement, public safety and internal security. The IPS Directorate has its own unique tasks and duties. The IPS first priority is to protect its citizens from terrorists, criminals and all those who seek to harm to the people of Iraq. The IPS protects people, their freedoms, public & private wealth as well as protect its citizens from any hazards and persons which compromise their safety. The IPS work to curb crime by implementing laws, arresting criminals who violate those laws and keeping public order."

The Multi-National Security Transition Command -- Iraq (MNSTC-I) has the mission "to assist the Iraqi Government in the development, organization, training, equipping, and sustaining of Iraqi Security Forces and Ministries capable of defeating terrorism and providing a stable environment where individual freedom, the rule of law, and free market economy can evolve and, in time, will contribute to Regional Security in the Gulf Region." To implement this mission, there are three major focus areas -- ministerial level capacity for the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, military forces, and police forces.

Assisting in the development of police forces also requires a "systems of systems" approach to build an enduring capability for the IPS. This enduring capability requires an "enterprise mindset" to manage those forces and capabilities through the entire spectrum of patrolling, investigations, forensics, apprehension, incarceration, adjudication, logistics, and facilities. Proper stewardship of the police forces also requires an emphasis on leader development and a robust internal affairs capability to create a professional police force in Iraq.

Police Forces "Star Chart"

The growth of the IPS in the past four years has been enormous -- from a previous force of approximately 60,000 to a force of over 250,000. This rapid growth has largely coincided with the "surge" of forces and the emphasis on establishing security throughout the country. In addition to the quantitative growth in the IPS, there have been significant qualitative changes in the last year -- these include the adoption of a Police Code of Ethics, strengthening of the Internal Affairs function to root out corruption, and a shift from a "confessional system" to an investigative and evidentiary system for the prosecution of crimes. As a result, the police forces "star chart" includes important enablers such as forensics and internal affairs to ensure the appropriate emphasis on professionalism in the Iraqi Police Services.

All of this reform and rapid growth within the Iraqi Police Forces is taking place in the context of the current counterinsurgency (COIN) fight, which impacts the prioritization of effort. The immediate requirement is to create an Iraqi Police Force that is "sufficiently trained and sufficiently led" to have adequate numbers of forces to deal with the COIN fight -- while enabling the IPS to develop along a trajectory that ensures a professional police force for the long term, focused on the rule of law and steady state security assurance. The COIN fight must be won to ensure this transition; nonetheless the development and investment for the police enterprise must be informed by future requirements of the "Rule of Law Police Force."

Managing Current and Future Requirements

The "systems of systems" or enterprise approach represents the approach to developing a professional Iraqi Police Services that can address the challenges of today as well as tomorrow. The approach of ensuring security while transitioning is designed to provide security to the people of Iraq as an enduring capability.

Dr. Jack D. Kem is the Chief of the Combined Arms Center (CAC) Commander's Initiatives Group (CIG), Fort Leavenworth, KS. As the CIG Chief, Dr. Kem assists the CAC Commander by developing ideas and initiatives, conducting strategic planning, and conducting independent and unbiased analysis of the CAC Commander' areas of interest. Dr. Kem also hold a concurrent appointment as a Supervisory Professor in the Department of Joint, Interagency, and Multinational Operations in the US Army Command and General Staff College. Dr. Kem is currently on temporary assignment with MNSTC-I.


Jon Myers (not verified)

Wed, 01/13/2010 - 4:59pm

My response is shaped by my overall experiences as part of the Multi-National Corps - Iraq (MNC-I) at various leadership positions in U.S. Army Military Police units in 2003, 2004 - 2005, and 2007 - 2008. Dr. Jacks post is an excellent explanation of the Coalition Forces (CF) vision of the optimal Iraqi Police Service (IPS) in its roles, responsibilities, and functions as an organization; however, operational reality is a different point of view, especially at the Police Transition Team (PTT) level.

Background. During my last tour as a MP Battalion S3 in MND-N, we were in the day-to-day fight of teaching, coaching, and mentoring over 82,000 Iraqi Police within four the Northern provinces (Diyala, Salah Dinh, Kirkuk, and Ninewa) of Iraq. This effort was done in direct support of one division HQ and four (4) Brigade Combat Teams (BCT). I also worked with the IPS in 2003, 2004, and 2005 so I have seen a wide timeframe capture of the effectiveness of MNSTC-I (Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq) and MNC-I units when it comes to improving IPS. I want to identify and expound upon three key points: 1) the Department of State contribution in the form International Police Advisors (IPA) has much to improve, 2) the tendency to cast IPS development almost exclusively on MP units leads to confusion and coordination issues, and 3) commanders at all levels have to set realistic goals for the IPS within the IPS capabilities and cultural norms.

The Key Players. The Department of State in Iraq is charged with supplementing the efforts of MNSTC-I with the training, equipping, and operational mentoring of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior units to include the Iraqi Police Service, the Border Police, the National Police, and the other law enforcement enablers currently in the MoI (Ministry of the Interior) inventory (K9, EOD, traffic police, et al). I will focus on the IPS as they are the force that will ultimately bring the rule of law to the nation after the Ministry of Defense military units finish clear and hold portions of the many on-going security operations in the country.

The DoS contracted IPAs were initially broken down into two contracts: DynCorp handled the IPAs who were tasked with operational mentoring of IPS in the stations, district, and provincial headquarters or the active IPS force; MPRI on the other hand handled the IPA-Trainers (IPA-T) who handled the establishment, operation, and mentoring of the Iraqi Police instructors within the various provincial and MoI sponsored Police training academies (initial entry and specialized training). The MNC-I contribution to this equation was the Military Police companies, battalions, and brigades that executed the Police Transition Team (PTT) mission in various capacities throughout the different operational environments in Iraq. In MND-N, the typical PTT was comprised of one 12 - 14 MP squad supplemented by 1 or 2 IPA and 1 or 2 local national interpreters. This PTT was usually tasked to operate at two to six Iraqi Police stations and would also fulfill some district headquarter level mentoring depending on the OE and PTT forces available.

In MND-N, each BCT had two to four MP companies that were arrayed according to the BCT commanders mission priorities and had a varied command relationship with the landowning battalions, but in the vast majority of cases, the MP company commander and his platoon leaders were the Coalition Force (CF) elements responsible for the PTT mission to include setting goals, recruiting, training, and operational mentoring of the IPS within the BCTs OE. The MP Battalion, at least in MND-N, worked directly for the division HQ and coordinated the various PTT efforts across the four provinces as well as conducting direct interface with MNSTC-I, MNC-I, and in some cases, the Ministry of Interior.

Issue #1 - The IPA: In a perfect environment, the DoS supplied IPA seems to be an excellent tool in the Commanders kit bag to effect the proper development of the IPS in terms of manning, equipping, training, and operational mentoring to the Iraqi Rule of Law. The main issues with the IPA that I observed in over 30 months in Iraq were threefold. The first was the quality of IPA that deployed to Iraq. Over half of the IPA that I have worked with, supervised, or otherwise was engaged, were great Americans, but they had no business trying to teach, coach, and mentor a foreign police force. These IPA had come from small towns or police forces, and although quite competent in the technical execution of law enforcement tasks, they were not suited to operate in a varied and harsh OE like Iraq nor did they possess any mid-level law enforcement managerial experience which is the critical skill requirement in mentoring a foreign police force. Some IPA were still trying to teach the IPS at their station basic patrolman level tasks like the application of hand restraints or conducting a vehicular, non-felony traffic stop. What the IPS needed, especially during and post CF surge, were IPA that had experience in community-oriented policing programs, criminal pattern analysis, patrol planning and distribution, et al. These are skills that the lone IPA in a MP squad (or equivalent PTT formation) needs to truly help shape the IPS into a credible law enforcement organization.

Issue #2 - MP as the primary IPS development organization. There should be no doubt, at least to commanders who served in Iraq and had MP in their organizations, that the U.S. Army MP units in Iraq did outstanding work as the bulwark force provider for the majority of PTTs up to the implementation of the SOFA on 1 January 2009. The ability of the MP Soldier to conduct the teaching, coaching, and mentoring of the Iraqi Policeman is unparalleled by other Army units and that is why working with host nation police forces is a collective task in all combat support MP units. However, the issue I observed during various stints in Iraq was the tendency for commanders (BCT and BN) to rely too heavily on their MP units to tackle the diverse and complex issue of IPS development. The development of the IPS as a Rule of Law enforcement organization as one of the three critical rule of law organizations was often not synchronized with the other two organizations: the justice (judiciary) and the corrections systems. In most countries, especially ones like Iraq, the police are typically involved in almost all government projects as the need for rule of law is universal in a country that seeks democratic ideals and principles. However, when MP units were often left to their initiative, there was seldom a coordinated effort with the other MNSTC-I or DoS efforts dealing with the Iraqi judiciary, provincial reconstruction teams, border police, national police, or most other MoI responsibilities outside of the specific IPS umbrella. There was truly no synchronization or unity of effort amongst these critical organizations.

The typical MP PTT did an outstanding job of training, coaching, and mentoring at the local IPS station level and with the injection of a platoon leader or company commander, at the district level. Our MP Officers possessed a general knowledge of police administration and managerial tasks that translate well at the appropriate station or district level. The disparity of PTT to IPS Headquarters was most apparent at the provincial level. There, the BCTs, using either their own officers or tasking their assigned MP units, built provincial level PTTs that in theory, were supposed to be robust enough to teach, coach, and mentor senior IPS officers and general officers in police operations, personnel administration, logistics, maintenance, community outreach, and a host of other required police administration and managerial tasks. Keep in mind that when discussing provincial PTTs, that the scope of influence on the provincial headquarters directly impacted an IP population of over 25,000 in some cases. Company grade MP Officers and field grade officers of other branches did not have the necessary experience and expertise to handle that challenge. The decision is organize a Provincial PTT around these junior officers proved ineffective and it manifested in the continuous need for key leader engagements from the Division, BCT, and MP Battalion Commanders to effect the desired change within a given IPS provincial headquarters.
As divisions, BCTs, and MP units rotated in and out of Iraq, the dynamics of PTT became even more complicated as there was no long-term guiding principle or goals to lead the IPS to the level of competence CF desired. This was somewhat rectified in 2007 and 2008 as MNF-I became more pointed with expectations of IPS development but we wasted many years putting band-aids on as temporary fixes instead of maintaining a running campaign plan with achievable and measurable goals.

Issue #3 - Realistic Goals for the IPS. The last issue I want to address was the tendency for commanders at all levels to issue operational edicts to MP or other PTT organizations in terms of IPS operational tasks and goals that were quite frankly, grossly unrealistic. Although ever present, the push in 2007 and 2008 to recruit and train thousands of additional IPS policemen (which was an entirely different problem set that individual units solved differently in the MNDs) was a relatively simple, easily measured operational requirement set forth by both division and BCT commanders. Especially the issue of training new recruits. In MND-N alone, CF (MP, PTTs, and BCTs) trained over 10,000 Iraqi policemen in a year. This doesnt seem much in an overall police force of 250,000, but when compared to the throughput of American police academies, it was a powerful effort.

The most significant was planning for IPS to accomplish specific tasks and goals. Part of the problem was the American philosophy of problem solving and task accomplishment, neither of which translated well into the society and organizational customs of the IPS. Day-to-day police operations require thorough criminal network analysis, trend analysis, community or neighborhood population statistics, and investigative capabilities that were well above any Iraqi Police organization that I observed, yet BCT and Battalion commanders would tell PTT their IPS needed to stop IEDs or kidnappings in a certain area. This was unrealistic until many basic skill sets were taught and ingrained into the IPS. Training is not an unattainable goal as more technical subjects are teachable to the more eager and intelligent IPS officers. The issue to ingrain the basic western policing philosophy into the IPS which is what U.S. commanders expect, through experience, of a civilian police force. The cultural tendencies of the IPS will preclude reaching that goal for some time. It is better, and more realistic, to look at Jordan or other "successful" regional countries and examine how their police forces recruit, train, and operate. Pushing the IPS to a similar proficiency is the more realistic approach.

Conclusion. As the transition team approach in Iraq has changed since 1 JAN 09, many of the points in this short article are dated. However, since the U.S. Army will inevitable find itself rebuilding a nations police force in the future, some of the lessons should be applied in war gaming for future post-conflict scenarios. At a minimum, the MP Corps needs to take a good look at the successes and failures after seven years in Iraq and build the proper relationships within the Department of State and Department of Justice so that the next time a multi-agency effort is conducted, the future PTTs will make a more profound and lasting effect with less coordination and continuity issues. Three recommendations that stem from the three issues addressed are: 1) ensure that DoS police advisors are more thoroughly trained and/or experienced in mid-level police managerial tasks; 2) ensure that MP (or other PTT organizations) have a long-range set of goals that carry-over unit rotations and ensure that the host nation police are not confused or forgotten during constantly changing unit priorities; and 3) ensure that land owning commanders are indoctrinated in regional police capabilities and realistic expectations of indigenous police force abilities.

MAJ Jon Myers