Reaching a major milestone, the Iraqi interior ministry announced yesterday that the Iraqi Army would turn over responsibility for security in the capital of Baghdad to the Iraqi police in July. Iraqi Army units within Baghdad will then redeploy to positions outside of Baghdad.
Traditionally, a police force is tasked with providing for a country’s internal security, and its army is tasked with providing security against external threats. In Iraq, however, the Iraqi Army has had responsibility for internal security throughout the country alongside the Iraqi police. This was necessary because the police were insufficiently trained and equipped to handle the level of insurgent violence. But after the surge of US forces in 2007, the violence level diminished significantly. And it has remained low despite the departure of US forces at the end of 2011.
The transfer of security responsibility to the police is particularly notable given that Baghdad is home to a large portion of Iraq’s population. The capital city has also seen some of the worst violence of the insurgency.
The transfer in Baghdad constitutes the first step in the transition process. The Iraqi interior ministry expects to turn over additional cities to the police during the summer. Eventually the police will have to take responsibility for internal security for the entire country in order to allow the Army to transition to the normal role of providing for the country’s external security.