Thursday, June 07, 2007

blogger roundtable with brigadier general phillips

GEN. PHILLIPS: I would just like to say I came back from Habbaniya out in Al Anbar province just the other day, and there are some significant advancements taking---especially since -- I spent three, four months over here in 2003, and then I had a 15-month tour as a brigade commander. Now I'm back over here. And comparing Al Anbar province and what's going on in Habbaniya with the academy to what I saw just months ago is night and day. People are back on the streets, commerce is up and going, and it's not the same -- it's not the same country out there that I saw just a short time ago. MR. HOLT: All right, sir. And that kind of goes to a question that Mark Finkelstein had for General Khalaf, so, Mark, would you want to restate your question for General Phillips? Q Yes, thank you. And thank you very much, General Phillips, for being with us. I had asked the Iraqi general the question of how the presence in Iraqi cities -- you know, like Habbaniya,Ramadi and Fallujah has improved or changed the quality -- the day-to-day quality of life for average Iraqi citizens. And I think, you know, you have now addressed that, but if I could invite you to expand on that, we'd appreciate it. GEN. PHILLIPS: Sure. Right now you're seeing many of the tribes, the families -- and it appears they've had their fill of al Qaeda, of the terrorism that's going on, and losing their sons and daughters is just having their livelihoods torn apart. As you know, Al Anbar was an absolute combat zone. That was about as down and dirty as you could get. But now they've rallied together. They're allowing their sons to go to the academies and train to be police officers, and they have their local groups, which are basically like community watch groups -they're working hand in hand with the Marine forces out there and the Army forces that are out there. They're turning in the insurgents. They're turning in caches of weapons. And I have to tell you that commerce is working, the stores are back open, and you get small kids on the streets now waving as you go by in a humvee. You didn't see that a few months back. Q Okay. That's the sort of information I was looking for. Just a quick point of clarification, I was at Camp Habbaniya in November, and I know that it's a training site for the Iraqi 1st Army Division. Is Habbaniya also a training site for Iraqi police? GEN. PHILLIPS: Correct. Just recently an agreement was reached between the minister of Interior and the minister of Defense to open the Al Anbar-Habbaniya Iraqi Police Academy, and we did some construction out there.We put 750 students through the course at any given time, and it's right on the facility, almost within walking distance from the 1st IA Division Headquarters. But that there is a big step in and of itself that the army and the police are starting to work together; as you know, that's been somewhat problematic at times. Q Now, there was a Marine unit that had responsibility for the Iraq 1st Army Division training. Is there a separate Marine or Army division that is in charge, or is it all through CPATT for the police side of things? GEN. PHILLIPS: Well, actually, I would like to say this is Iraqi-led. Although we have about 15 personnel that are advisers out there from CPATT, the instructors are all Iraqi, the administration of the academy is Iraqi, and it's really totally run -- other than a little bit of tutelage, guidance and mentoring there; we do have some Marines that are providing oversight on the life support contracts to make sure that water, ice, food is all delivered. But short of that, this is an Iraqi-run academy on an Iraqi military installation. Q Okay. Very interesting. Thank you. MR. HOLT: All right. And I believe that kind of leads into the question that David Axe has. So David, if you want to expand or follow up? Q Oh, I don't really want to repeat the question I had before with the Iraqi -- MR. HOLT: Okay. But General, thanks for taking the time. I really appreciate it. And I'd like to ask you about the interface between the Iraqi police and the Iraqi judicial system. Are you seeing any improvements there? GEN. PHILLIPS: Yes, and I can compare that back to 2003, 2004 and early 2005 and to now. You are seeing it start to get better. And as you know, we increased and grew the Iraqi police, but we didn't increase and grow the Iraqi judicial system simultaneously at the same speed. Therefore, as the police would execute their duties, arrest and apprehend people off the streets for various crimes, they would sit in their detention cells because there was very few investigative judges to take them to. Well, now with General Petraeus' initiative, we have the rule of law -- the rule of law zone that we're putting together, and it's really a complex. It's where we have investigative judges, investigators, holding cells, and an actual prison. So now the Iraqi police are able to bring somebody that they've arrested before an investigative judge and a determination is to be made whether or not to hold the individual for additional investigation and subsequent prosecution, or to release him because of a lack of evidence. That's the long pole in the tent we didn't see recently. That is why the Iraqi police jail cells in their individual police stations were getting so overcrowded, and you know any time you get overcrowding in a jail, it's a conviction -- is set and right for our problem. But now that we have the judges up and starting to run cases and they have their investigators at the Rule of Law Complex, which is on the other side of the river, adjacent to the Ministry of the Interior complex, we're starting to get the flow going. We've got initiatives to open Rule of Law Complexes up in Mosul and some of the other large cities so that once a person is detained, they can expeditiously go in front of an investigative judge. I wouldn't say it's perfect yet, but we have come a long way in just about a year's time frame. Q General, sorry, a point of clarification. This first Rule of Law Complex is where? GEN. PHILLIPS: It's on the east side of Baghdad near the Ministry of Interior building, adjacent to the Baghdad Police College. Q All right. GEN. PHILLIPS: It's a whole complex where you have the MOJ, the Ministry of Justice, working side by side with the Ministry of the Interior, the police. The traffic headquarters is near that area. But it's a whole complex area where all of the different agencies come together and then try to execute the rule of law -- the triad -- from the police, to the judicial, to the confinement. Q General, thanks. You have mentioned that before. But in a -- so I understand the process has improved, or at least the infrastructure has improved, but what about the attitudes? Are you seeing just a better spirit of cooperation between these two ministries? GEN. PHILLIPS: Yes. And you know, that's been problematic in the past. It is very territorial. But what you just saw with Habbaniya and the Police Academy, between minister of Defense and Interior to work this out, where you're now seeing between the Ministry of the Interior who gave up land to the minister of Justice for this complex. In the past, we would not have seen that happen, at least not with(out) a lot of work. So yes, it's getting better. Not perfect. But I'm very optimistic about this, especially being a career military policeman, I've grown up with the rule of law, and to see it now starting to get practiced over here, I'm optimistic. Q Thank you very much. MR. HOLT: Okay, Andrew. Q Thanks. General, a quickie question. Listening to these stories of the Sunnis and the Marines in Anbar, which is -- thank God we're hearing this now -- that a lot of this works because the Sunnis are -- they got the cooperation of the leadership of the Sunni chieftains. What's going to happen in Baghdad when you don't have that? You know, how do the -- the IAs there seem to be more Shi'a oriented and JAM-led than IA-led. GEN. PHILLIPS: That's one of the biggest problems I think you can see over here that we're having to wrestle with, it's where you have the crossroads between the different sects, between the Shi'a and the Sunni. Baghdad is a crossroads where you have Christian, you have Kurdish, you have different sects from Sunni to Shi'a, and wherever you have that, we see that you can have flashpoints. Al Anbar, as you know, is predominantly Sunni, whereas down south we have predominately Shi'a. That's why there's such an emphasis going on with our search here to try to get a reconciliation between the groups, such as we saw in South Africa years ago when Nelson Mandela came up and, you know, led the way for reconciliation and said I don't care that I was in jail all that time, I forgive you. And then we saw some great leaps there. That is what we're looking to see happen here. And we're waiting for those senior leaders to come forward and do that handshake. At this point, it's still problematic and you'regoing to have those flashpoints wherever you have a crossroads. Q Do the people still look at the IA or the IP there as essentially being corrupt and beingShi'a-led or Shi'a-oriented? I'm not sure what term I'm looking for there. GEN. PHILLIPS: Well, I guess, I would say, do they look at them in Baghdad as being Shi'a or Jaish al-Mahdi, JAM-influenced? I would say, there are those out there that see that and say that. But also, just to tell you, the other day I drove across the 3rd ID bridge. And there's kids playing in some areas where I never saw them playing before, and I saw policemen on the street. And I didn't know if those were Shi'a or Sunni policemen. But the fact that families were letting their kids play there, again, shows that there is some faith in the fact that these policemen are out there. But yes, you're always going to have some people suspect that the police are corrupt. But let me ask this. If you look at any other police department in the world, regardless of the country, and if you templated on them the insurgency and the terrorists that we have here, I wonder how they would stand up to it., If you took the insurgency and terrorists away, I would argue that the Iraqi police force in Baghdad would rival any other like-size city in this region of the world. But once you have the mix of combat that's going on, the police -- we train them to be cops. We don't train them to be soldiers, and they are definitely outgunned. But are people suspect? Yes. And are there bad policemen? Every department has bad policemen. Are there more here than other places? Well, we've got some problems. But the internalaffairs organization is working ruthlessly to capture them and take them into custody. I heard just yesterday that six were arrested for not only accepting bribes but doing a whole bunch of other stuff they shouldn't have been doing. That's a positive thing, that they were at least arrested. Q Is that Iraqi internal affairs or ours? GEN. PHILLIPS: That's Iraqi internal affairs, which is led by -- (name inaudible) -- who I knew since he was a major back in 2003. He has probably one of the most dangerous jobs over here, not to say -- to take away from any other job. But he is investigating the Iraqi police and all of the different -- he actually gets other missions, too by direction of the prime minister. He reports to the minister of the Interior, and he handles all the ugly stuff internal. There's a lot of people that would like to see him fail at his job. There have been multiple attempts on his life. But he's still out there, and he's still doing it. Q Okay, great, thank you. MR. HOLT: And Jeff, you're next. Q General, thanks for your time. I've got a little bit of a curveball question based more on your background than on your position right now. With -- I was in Baghdad a little while ago embedded, but didn't get out into the countryside or anything like that. And obviously in Baghdad, given the nature of the urban area, there's very little offensive or defensive close air support being used, and therefore very little need for deployment of tactical air controllers or -- (inaudible). How if at all are they being used elsewhere in Iraq? And what kind of air support are we using, as far as our offensive and defensive prosecuting of this post-war? GEN. PHILLIPS: Well, I tell you, I fly by air quite a bit, by helicopters. And I'm a military policemen, so really it would not be my area of expertise. I do know that close air support is out there. We have it available to call in. You don't routinely call them in an urban area. But I'm very confident when I'm out at some of the outlying locations, if I need that close air, it's going to be there for me. I know how to call it in; my security teams know how to call it in. But as for the amount of use in that, I just don't have that type of expertise. Q Thanks a lot. GEN. PHILLIPS: Sure. MR. HOLT: Okay, Mike Goldfarb. Q I'm all right. I'll pass. MR. HOLT: Okay, all right, Jarred. Q Good afternoon, sir. This is Lieutenant Fishman. Even the mainstream media are now reporting great improvements in Anbar province. But are you confident, though, that we'll see Iraqi police and the Iraqi army improvements, both in Baghdad and Diyala province, once we clear those areas of al Qaeda? That seems to be the biggest trouble spots that we're having now. GEN. PHILLIPS: Well, I -- yes, Diyala, up in Baqubah, Baghdad are flashpoints. But it's not only AQI, not only al Qaeda. We have Jaish Al-Mahdi, the JAM elements, too, that are also problematic. So it's just not one group, there's multiple groups. But I'm optimistic now that some of the area that some of the areas that I can go back into and feel relatively safe, get out of my humvee, and to walk the street. I still won't stop into stores, though, because I fear the danger that if I shop and buy bread from a bakery like I did in 2003, that the individual who sold it to me might put himself or his family at risk. But things are improving in some of the areas of Baghdad. I was up in Baqubah the other day, too. There's still some problematic areas, but we do not have a shortage of individuals requesting to join the police. When you hear the suicide bombers inflicting casualties at a recruiting for police, the reason there's casualties is because we have lines of people who still want to join. So I think that's a positive note in and of itself.

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