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Iraq withdrawal: A US unit prepares Mosul police for self-rule

As Iraq withdrawal looms in August, US readies police to confronts drugs, corruption, and insurgent clout in one of Iraq's most volatile cities.

By Sebastian MeyerContributor / July 9, 2010

An Iraqi soldier takes pictures of a man (foreground, left) receiving a radio donated by US forces as part of a hearts-and minds operation in the insurgent stronghold of Mosul, a city on the Tigris River.

Sebastian Meyer


Mosul, Iraq

Perched on a couch in a small Mosul police station far from his home in Forest, Miss., Sgt. Wesley Majure sighs with frustration. "That's it? Only three to train?" he asks in his Southern drawl.

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The Iraqi police chief, dressed in a Juventus tracksuit, shrugs. "You didn't tell us you were coming."

"Well let's go train the hell out of those three then," Majure huffs as he lifts himself off the couch and makes for the door.

This episode doesn't reflect poor planning; Majure couldn't tell his Iraqi colleague when they were coming – a rule laid down after a US soldier and his interpreter were killed by an Iraqi policeman in a Mosul police station in February 2009.

That's just one of the challenges this unit of US military police face on the front lines of preparing for America's exit from Iraq. They are a part of the STT, or Security Transition Team, which has been tasked with training Iraqi police to take on insurgents in Iraq's most dangerous city.

Ammunition money used to pave driveways

While attacks have fallen here since the peak of sectarian violence, Majure and other American advisers to the unit have other problems on their hands – everything from insurgents threatening the policemen's wives and children to generals using ammunition money to pave their driveways.

"Right now, the [Iraqi] security forces are not good enough to take on the insurgents," explains Vic Morrow, ex-Special Forces and now an adviser to the transition team. "Some of them are up to it, but what'll fail it is corruption. And the price of failure is astronomical."

Many believe a dysfunctional security force in Iraq would allow insurgents, as well as neighbors such as Iran and Syria, to fill the power vacuum as the US withdraws. This could lead to a return of sectarian fighting.

Corruption, lack of funds

For those who advise the federal police and Iraqi Army, one of the largest worries is money and corruption. Iraqi commanders claim the problem stems from Baghdad, where politicians still haven't formed a government nearly four months after the March 7 parliamentary election.

"We are ready to take full control of our country's security," says a federal police commander from Baghdad. "But the government isn't serious. They're corrupt and are only looking out for themselves. We need a strong government like we had under Saddam."

Sunnis in Mosul fear oppression by the country's Shiite majority, especially from the Army and federal police who have come from Baghdad.