Colonel: Soldiers can shoot to restrain rogue Iraqi special police
ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. troops will not hesitate to stop Iraqi special police from committing “illegal acts or abuse,” said Army Col. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, head of the U.S. transition teams for Iraqi police commandos and mechanized special police.
Buchanan’s comments come after an apparent disagreement between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace about to what lengths U.S. troops can go to stop abuse by Iraqi security forces.
“It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. servicemember, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it,” said Pace at a Nov. 29 briefing.
“But I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it,” Rumsfeld said.
To which Pace replied, “If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.”
Speaking to reporters Friday, Buchanan said U.S. troops will do what it takes to restrain Iraqi police, including shooting them if they get out of line.
“If that’s what it took to protect innocent human life, we could,” said Buchanan, commander of 2nd Brigade, 75th Division.
Asked if U.S. troops had been forced to shoot Iraqi police to protect civilians, Buchanan said, “Not at all.”
Buchanan said one of the Iraqi police commandos’ strengths is their aggressiveness, which sometimes gets them into trouble.
“What we try to do is try to ensure that their aggressiveness does not go over the top and they operate in accordance with Iraqi law,” he said.
One way the transition teams try to make sure Iraqi special police stay within the confines of the law is by going with them on operations, Buchanan said.
“There have been times where we have had to intervene to keep them from going in a wrong direction,” he said.
Buchanan said he himself had to step in during an incident in Tal Afar.
“We got in a firefight and the commandos apprehended one of the suspected insurgents, and they continued to fight with the guy after he should have been under control, so we intervened to stop that,” he said.
On another occasion, an Iraqi special police commander relieved one of his subordinates of command for destroying civilian property after getting shot at, Buchanan said.
The Iraqi special police have an authorized strength of more than 11,000, Buchanan said. Most of the police commandos served in Saddam Hussein’s security forces, he said.
Since their inception in 2004, the Iraqi special police have served as “urban light infantry,” but the police transition teams are working to turn them into a national police force, Buchanan said.
“So that’s the future; that’s not where we are right now,” he said.