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The U.S. military has completed building an Iraqi National Police brigade headquarters southeast of Baghdad that officials say will greatly increase the force’s legitimacy and effectiveness.

Construction began on the headquarters, in Tameem, some nine months ago and was completed at a cost of $4.7 million, according to officials from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade.

A ceremony to mark the end of construction was held Tuesday.

And while the building will, of course, provide a modern structure from which the police can work, it is equally important as a symbol, officials said.

“The new building also increases [the National Police’s] stature within the community,” Maj. Jeremy Moore, an Iraqi security forces liaison with the 3rd Brigade, said in a news release.

“It was built from the ground up. There was nothing but an empty lot. This headquarters solves the [3rd Brigade, 1st National Police Division’s] basing problems.” The building now provides one central location for the brigade’s leadership and helps give them command and control over operations.

Building up capabilities and facilities for the National Police has long been one of the main goals for the 3rd Infantry Division, which operates in a wide swath of land south of Baghdad.

Lt. Col. Jack Marr, who commands the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, said in an interview last month that building bases for police was among the priorities of his unit, which operates in and around Salman Pak.

Marr calls the National Police a “gendarme” force, more of an anti-terror unit than a traditional police presence.

“The No. 1 project for us is to build a [forward operating base] for the NP brigade here,” Marr said. “Right now, they are living in separate places amongst the people.”

Currently, Marr said, the National Police in his area consist of three battalions. They are spread out in various “bases” that range from old homes to larger facilities converted into temporary bases.

The Iraqi National Police have had a troubled history since the Iraq war began.

Many civilians and government officials accuse the National Police of being a Shiite-dominated force that has been hampered by corruption and infiltrated by death squads and militants.

There were even calls from some U.S. military officials to disband the force and start over.

But officials have recently focused on trying to recruit more Sunni officers and improving the training to make the force more professional.

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