When al-Qaeda extended its control over Anbar province in 2005, the police force was directly targeted and effectively dissolved. However, since the improvement in security conditions since mid-2007 the force has
Niqash met Major General Tariq al-Asal, Anbar’s police chief, and asked him about his force’s readiness to perform its role, the challenges ahead as U.S troops withdraw and the level of security enjoyed by the largest province in Iraq.
Niqash: How secure is Anbar today?
Al-Asal: In the years that followed the fall of the regime there were bloody battles because al-Qaeda made Anbar its stronghold causing a lot of damage, loss of life and property and paralyzing all aspects of life. Now there is a positive and significant 75% improvement in the security conditions and this is because of the security forces, tribes and citizens’ efforts.
Niqash: But in recent days there were bombings and security conditions no longer seem stable?
Al-Asal: We are still threatened by al-Qaeda, which has a presence everywhere in the world and which is trying to prove that it is still powerful. But, I am confident that al-Qaeda in Anbar is part of the past that we will not return to it again. This brutal organization which produced thousands of widowed men and women, thousands of orphans and which led to the destruction of homes, streets and institutions is only a bubble that appears every now and then. This doesn’t mean that it is still present. We have thrown it into the dustbin of history.
Niqash: What are the major obstacles you face in bringing security and stability to the province?
Al-Asal: The large area of the province, desert areas, regional borders with three countries and internal borders with six provinces are the real challenges and threats faced by Anbar.
Niqash: What is the position of the Anbar police force amidst U.S troops, Iraqi troops and tribal influences? Are you able to coordinate your work and achieve your aims?
Al-Asal: The police force in Anbar has a long arm in security and stability. They are responsible for protecting all cities and towns of Anbar, and they are not politically polarized. Our forces are professional; their role is to enforce the law and make sure that it is fairly applied and that there is nobody above the law.
Niqash: Are you dealing with crimes and operations that are different in nature to those dealt with by police in other provinces?
Al-Asal: Yes, this is true in some cases. In al-Qaem border city, some months ago, terrorists were able to cross the border and commit a crime against some police members and they were then able to cross the border and escape punishment. In many cases we are not able to find the corpses of the victims who are either buried in unknown places or thrown in rivers and lakes or even burnt. Sometimes we find skeletons of dead people and we are not able to identify them. Now, the criminal evidence directorate is more equipped and can better deal with such crimes.
Niqash: In the case of a U.S troop withdrawal will the Anbar police force be able to enforce the law by itself?
Al-Asal: The Anbar police force is already enforcing the law without any interference by U.S forces and when U.S troops withdraw there won’t be any breaches of security. The police and army have full control over all of Anbar’s soil.
Niqash: Do you think that a new provincial council will impact police work?
Al-Asal: Of course it will. This is the first elections in Anbar. In the past no real elections took place. Now we have an elected provincial council that represents the people of Anbar and it will clearly support the security process in the province.
Niqash: What are the aspirations and requirements that will make Anbar’s police force more capable of performing its role?
Al-Asal: It is not a matter of aspirations. The police force is achieving continuous progress and the minister of interior’s plans to develop the police have made this apparatus 100% neutral. Progress depends on scientific developments of this apparatus. I am confident that we will have police forces equipped with the latest electronic devices, weapons and sophisticated equipment, similar to those that exist in other democratic countries.