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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraqi Police Will Be Trained in Hungary

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Eager to have more Iraqis take responsibility for their country's security, U.S. officials are planning to ferry as many as 28,000 Iraqis to Eastern Europe for an intensive police training course.

Bernard Kerik, a former New York City Police commissioner in charge of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said in an interview that U.S. officials had secured permission from the government of Hungary to set up a large police academy inside an old Soviet military base there.

Kerik said the extraordinary measures were necessary because the existing police academies in Iraq were not large enough to train that many officers in the next several months.

His plan is part of a larger effort by senior U.S. officials to press the Iraqis to take a greater share in running the country. The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is also under growing political pressure at home to lighten the load on the U.S. forces here.

"We want to turn Iraqi security over to the Iraqis," Kerik said. "This is the only way to do it quickly."

He said the prospective Iraqi officers would receive eight weeks of intensive training by Americans in Hungary and then return to Iraq. Early this year, the site was also used to train a group of Iraqi volunteers to work with U.S. troops.

After the men return from training, they would be given four to six months of on-the-job instruction, similar to the training officers undergo in the United States.

Kerik said he hoped to begin training the first group of 1,500 officers in four months, with 28,000 officers ready to start work in Iraq over the next 18 months. That would bring the total number of police officers to 65,000 -- the number that U.S. officials believe is required to police the country effectively.

The program outlined by Kerik reflects the growing sense of urgency among U.S. officials that the chaotic security situation prevailing in some parts of the country could be more effectively dealt with by the Iraqis, who are seen as more credible peacekeepers than the U.S. occupation forces.

Kerik said it would relieve U.S. troops of the burden of doing the policing. But it is unclear whether that would reduce the number of U.S. troops needed in Iraq.

Four months after Saddam Hussein's government collapsed, the streets of some Iraqi cities, including Baghdad, are still quite chaotic, with rampant robberies, kidnappings and shootings often going unpunished. The collapse of public order that followed the fall of Hussein's government was made worse by the disintegration of the Iraqi Army, which made guns and munitions easily available on the streets.

Since the end of the war, U.S. administrators have put 37,000 police officers in place around the country. Most of them worked for the former government but were judged by the occupation officials after individual reviews to be competent, honest and reasonably independent from that government, Kerik said.

Each of the officers now working in Iraq has been given a mandatory American-devised training course, usually lasting a few weeks, in police tactics, democracy and human rights. Kerik said the pool of former officers was all but tapped out, though, and that raw recruits would need far more training. Training those new recruits in Iraq's existing police academies would take nearly six years, he said.

The Iraqi police force has been given a largely warm reception by the Iraqi people, although it has been weakened by a lack of equipment, especially guns. In the southern Iraqi city of Diwaniya, for instance, only a fraction of the city's 2,500 police officers have guns. U.S. marines overseeing the police have been forced to pair officers with guns with those who have none.