POLITICS

Training professional Iraqi cops a worthwhile Canadian endeavour: expert

11/03/2014 03:33 EST | Updated 01/03/2015 05:59 EST
KUWAIT CITY - Iraq plans to step up police training to deal with the threat of extremists — a project one expert says would be ideal for a Conservative government that's eager to make its mark in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The Harper government has put more emphasis on business and trade in emerging nations than on institution-building, said Terry Gould, who has spent several years researching and writing about civilian police missions in Afghanistan, Palestine and Haiti.

Having honest, well-trained police would be a major step towards bridging Iraq's sectarian divide, which has torn the country apart in the post-Saddam Hussein era, Gould said in an interview.

What should follow any military campaign is "a training program that attempts to build an honest, professional, civilian police service that will be connected to the community," he said.

"When you don't bring in that institution to keep order, you're going to wind up with more disorder."

Gould said funding for civilian police operations, also known as CivPol, has been stagnant for years and the number of training missions around the world has declined to just two, involving only 93 officers.

The chaos that followed the international community's failure to build an impartial police service in Libya after the NATO bombing campaign in 2011 is a cautionary tale for the coalition bombing Iraq and Syria, he added.

In Iraq, the alienation of Sunnis from the largely Shiite-run government and security forces of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is part of the reason the country has descended back into a bloody cauldron of sectarian violence.

In Ottawa on Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and French President Francois Hollande acknowledged the current airstrike campaign won't be enough to defeat ISIL, but insisted the bombs are having an effect.

What will happen after the extremists are dislodged, however, remains unclear.

"Part of it is also a political settlement in Baghdad that allows those parts of the country that are presently occupied by ISIL to see themselves as part of the governance, and part of the national life of the country," Harper said.

"Those are the things that are being done.”

Canada did contribute to an international police training mission for Iraq security forces following the 2003 U.S. invasion, but the 16-nation effort has been tarnished by the way some of the local cops melted away when Islamic State militants began tearing across Syria and northern Iraq.

The training, conducted at a camp in Jordan, churned out thousands of graduates every week, but many were only there for the salary and weren't committed to policing, said former trainers who talked to The Toronto Star last summer.

Gould, who wrote the recently published book "Worth Dying For: Canada's Mission to Train Police in Failing States," says a more extensive, rigorous program needs to be developed — and Canadian thoughtfulness and expertise can lead the way.

"These police forces, when they are trained up properly, they're trained to include all ethnic, religious and tribal divides, so that the individual officers become prideful of the uniform they wear that represents the nation, rather than their own sect."

Adam Hodge, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, was non-committal about the idea, noting that in the past Canada has preferred to work through international organizations like Interpol.

"We will continue to monitor the situation in Iraq to determine how best Canada can support security in Iraq, over the short and long term," Hodge said in an email.