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Iraqi Lessons For Af-Pak Troubles

With Pakistan and Afghanistan slowly disintegrating under pressure from the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the time seems ripe to explore some of the things that are being done right in Iraq that may serve to help bolster those failing regimes. I spoke Friday morning with Air Force Maj. Joseph Musacchia, chief of security forces and an advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, who offered several example of how the Iraqi Ministry of Interior is improving its performance.

David Kilcullen, one of Gen. Petraeus’ key counterinsurgency advisors, and others have been saying for weeks that the slow-motion collapse of Pakistan poses the greatest risk to American interests. And these experts have identified improving the status and reach of the Pakistani police as key to improving the nuclear power’s chances of survival as a democratic state run by one authority.

Of course, many of the same truths hold for Afghanistan although the risks of collapse are less in Afghanistan since it is a much smaller country without nuclear weapons that is already in something of a state of collapse.

Both countries may have lessons to learn from Iraq, where the US has expended great effort and treasure to rebuild Iraq’s shattered police forces. One of the key players in this effort today is Musacchia, chief of security forces and an advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. Musacchia has been in country for only three months and is building on much work that has gone before him. But he is one of the central figures in Iraq today training the Iraqi police in how to function as a civilized police force, one that functions on a solid ethical and legal basis.

The major and his people have set up introductory courses to teach police recruits – the foundation of the force -- police ethics and the benefits of and approaches to anti-corruption.

Key to that effort is working with the Inspector General – their equivalent to internal affairs – to help them better gauge whether the ethics training and anti-corruption initiatives are actually working.

For example, Musacchia told reporters today that the Inspector General’s office was tracking disciplinary actions. But they were tracking them without breaking the incidents down into categories so that all infractions, from wearing a uniform incorrectly to taking bribes (my example, not his), were lumped together.

“We suggested breaking them down,” the major said, into something along the lines of felonies, misdemeanors and administrative punishments. That should allow the Iraqis to determine whether “the really bad crimes [are] on the decline or are the administrative punishments on the rise.” If the Iraqis see a rise in “administrative discipline then you know that the rules are being followed.”

As part of this effort the US advisors are helping the Iraqis set up statistical analysis classes so they can perform the kind of detailed breakdowns necessary to reliably track these statistics.

Another initiative that may connect more with the Iraqi people on a day to day basis, Musacchia said people looking for a missing relative often come to the Inspector General’s office with a photo to inquire if the person is in detention. But the Iraqis were tracking these inquiries in a book. Photos were not entered and they obviously could not do database searches to find where the person might be held.

US advisors suggested they might want to computerize the process. Within two weeks, Musacchia said, the Iraqis had purchased computers and started to build a database that could be searched using photos and other information. It is still a work in progress.

Any one of these initiatives won't make much of a difference should it be applied to the Afghani or Pakistani police. But the approach of trying to build a stable, dependable and honest police force could do much to solidify popular support of the two regimes.

Now the major said he is not feeding lessons learned directly to counterparts in Afghanistan, but he does meet with US embassy personnel in regular anti-corruption meetings. The State Department should be compiling these lessons learned from Iraq and sharing them with senior policymakers and folks on the ground. The major's work sounds exactly like the sort of thing US money and expertise should be spent on if these countries are going to be stabilized. Blunting Al Qaeda and the Taliban’s ability to kill and intimidate through intelligence and military means is crucial, but the underlying foundation of rule of law and effective policing bolsters that effort and improves the flow of intelligence.

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