View Full Version : Iraqi government not meeting Sunni needs, general says

11-14-06, 11:06 AM
November 14, 2006
Iraqi government not meeting Sunni needs, general says

By Tom Vanden Brook
USA Today

FALLUJAH, Iraq — The Shiite-dominated central government is starving Iraqi security forces in the Sunni heartland of the resources needed to fight the insurgency, according to American officers.

In Anbar province, a Sunni region west of Baghdad, many police officers haven’t been paid for three months. “It’s difficult to ask a man to risk his life if you can’t even pay him,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Robert Neller, deputy commanding general of Multi-National Force-West.

Winning over Sunnis is critical to achieving a political solution to the violence in Iraq. The dispute in Anbar highlights a growing fear among Sunnis that the Shiite-dominated government isn’t sincere about helping them.

“That’s why people in Anbar think the government in Baghdad doesn’t want them to succeed,” Neller said. “Sometimes I wonder if the government in Baghdad wants them to succeed.”

Anbar is among the most dangerous areas of Iraq. Of 104 American troop deaths in October, at least 40 were in Anbar.

There are about 33,000 American troops in Anbar, spread across 53,000 square miles. The population is 1.2 million, about 80 percent of which are Sunnis.

In September, Marine Maj. Gen. Rick Zilmer, the commander of troops in the region, said he had enough forces to complete his primary mission of training Iraqi forces but not enough to defeat the insurgency.

That job will depend largely on the abilities of Iraqi forces. There are about 7,000 Iraqi police officers and 13,000 Iraqi army soldiers in the province.

Haider al-Ibadi, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said corruption in Anbar has prevented the government from paying officers more quickly. Some Iraqi officials in Anbar have submitted fake names of officers and fraudulently pocketed the money, he said.

Neller said U.S. and Iraqi army forces are making progress in the region, but the lack of support from the central government hurts the ability to recruit and equip Iraqi police in particular.

On a visit to the village of Rawah on the Euphrates River, a police officer asked Neller for American forces to provide local police with more protection.

“Let’s be honest with each other,” Neller told the officer. “There are not enough Marines, Iraqi army or police to cover all this ground. And I can’t tell you there will be more Marines coming.”