By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
Progress in Iraq has to be event-driven, said Lt. Col. Frank Y. Rangel Jr., who is on leave from a deployment to Iraq and spoke Sept. 11 about the progress he has seen and what still needs to be done.
Setting a specific time for when Iraqi police and security forces can take control of their country won’t work and the officials are setting the right path with benchmarks, said the commander of the 89th Military Police Brigade’s 720th Military Police Battalion. He wished he knew when Iraqi police forces would be able to stand on their own, but said it relied on the ground commanders and Iraqi leaders to evaluate what was and wasn’t possible.
The battalion deployed in February, according to a battalion spokesman.
Rangel’s soldiers are responsible for training Iraqi police forces. The battalion falls under the 3rd Infantry Division, and the soldiers work in the southern areas of Baghdad Province and Babil Province. Progress in Babil has been great, Rangel said, and Iraqis have taken control of certain areas.
Emergency Response Units, much like SWAT teams, have had success in the province. The lieutenant colonel said the Iraqi government has a five-year plan to build similar units in each province.
While there have been great steps forward in Babil Province, Rangel said, there are still issues in areas of Baghdad Province. It is experiencing a slower progress because it has a more varied culture.
Rangel said the Shi’a government must incorporate more Sunnis and when each side gets over its levels of distrust, progress would truly be made.
Peace is a common goal for all Iraqis, Rangel said. They want to be able to do everyday activities such as go grocery shopping and have amenities such as electricity and running water.
The success of the forces the battalion’s soldiers train is based on how well Iraqis can recruit policemen. A police force should reflect the community it serves, Rangel said; that way, citizens feel that goals and agendas are being met. The soldiers had a larger role in recruiting when they first arrived in the country, but that task is now primarily up to Iraqi policemen, Rangel said.
His soldiers encounter few problems when training their Iraqi counterparts, but the real challenge lies in finding resources and budgeting. The police must work through levels of bureaucracy in order to get needed supplies such as fuel, ammunition and vehicles. Rangel said he has seen a lot of sectarian agendas slow down the progress, but he has also seen people work together quickly to address those problems. The challenge is prioritizing who needs what and when, he said.
“Iraq is a nation with many, many needs,” Rangel said.
Despite the challenges, Rangel sees Iraq as a nation with tremendous potential. The country could take advantage of its oil reserves and rivers for hydroelectric power, he said. The population is educated, and Iraqis are “sophisticated, forward-looking people,” he added.
He said that Americans have unrealistic goals if they expect change to occur overnight. The progress isn’t as fast as Americans are used to and democracy is a new concept to Iraqis. To expect Iraq to look like America is unrealistic, Rangel said.
“It needs to be an Iraq for Iraqis and not for anybody else,” he said.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7547