US says training Iraqi police key to ending violence
WASHINGTON, Feb 27: President George W Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley said today that training an Iraqi police force loyal to the government and not to militias is the key to stemming sectarian violence.
But asked on CBS' ''Face the Nation'' whether there are concerns Shi'ite death squads had infiltrated the Iraqi Interior Ministry, Hadley said, ''There have been allegations about this and there's been some evidence of it. And it's troubling.'' On CNN's ''Late Edition,'' Hadley said there were concerns about militia infiltration of the police. Training, he added, would ''make sure that the people in the police do not have ties to militia groups, are going to be loyal to the central authority and have the necessary training to do their jobs.'' Hadley praised Iraqi leaders' condemnation of recent violence, in which more than 200 people were killed since Wednesday's bombing of the Shi'ite Muslim mosque in Samarra.
''Our hope ... that in this tragedy there actually is an opportunity where all the communities will decide that really it is in their mutual interest to avoid the violence, pull together and construct the kind of unity government that can move this country forward,'' he said on CBS.
Iraqi leaders met late on Saturday to appeal for calm and renew pledges for a unity government.
Shi'ite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, flanked by Sunni and Kurdish politicians, urged Iraqis not to turn on each other. ''The Iraqi people have one enemy; it is terrorism and only terrorism. There are no Sunnis against Shi'ites,'' he said.
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Virginia Republican John Warner, said the current conflict was not a civil war by ''traditional definitions,'' but he noted growing realization that Iraq could slip into civil war.
On NBC's ''Meet the Press,'' Warner said the Iraqi government had sufficient military to take the lead with some U.S.
support. ''But I do not think we should get involved in the civil war, other than to give support to the Iraqi forces as they begin to put it down,'' he said.
But Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware raised the question on ''Fox News Sunday'' of whether the leaders calling for an end to violence continued to have influence.
''The question is are those guys still in control or has the street taken over ... are the militias in control? Who controls the militias?'' Biden said.
Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie told CNN that Iraqi forces were ready to fight terrorism, which he said is at the heart of the current violence.
''I believe that more than 60 percent of the Iraqi security forces are ready and prepared to take on the terrorists. And the level of the training is very, very good,'' he said.
Hadley added that the current situation in Iraq should not slow U.S. plans to start bringing some of the 138,000 U.S.
troops home, which depends upon training of Iraqi forces.
''I don't see why this should be why this should derail that process. And, of course, that is the key. As the president said, as they step up, we can step down.'' he said on CNN.