Iraqis still want US help in Anbar

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Correspondent Susannah George visits Iraq's Anbar Province, once the most dangerous place for US troops in Iraq. Today, US forces are getting ready to withdraw, and Iraqi forces are in charge of security in Anbar. But some Iraqis there don't want the Americans to leave.

LISA MULLINS: One ultimate aim in Afghanistan is to prepare Afghan forces to take more responsibility for their country's security. It's the same in Iraq. The mission for the remaining US forces in Iraq is to train and assist Iraqis as they completely take over security duties. It's happening even in places where such a transfer of duties once seemed unimaginable. One such place is Anbar province. At the height of the Iraq war, Anbar was the deadliest province for American troops. Today Iraqi security forces control the province. They get advice and assistance from Americans. But as Susannah George reports from Anbar, some local Iraqi leaders are apprehensive.

SUSANNAH GEORGE: The city of Ramadi's police headquarters sits inside a fortified complex protected by a maze of checkpoints and armed guards. The complex houses the Anbar command center and the province's Chief of Police. Regional offices like these are what will help prop up Iraq as US forces leave. But, over sweet tea and cigarettes, Police Chief Brigadier Bahaa' Al-Karkhi, implores the US, don't go.


GEORGE: General Al-Karkhi says that his security forces have the courage and smarts to patrol Anbar, but they don't have what it takes to properly conduct surveillance and gather intelligence. A forensics lab, wiretapping capabilities, thermal cameras to protect the border and better training on how to use and maintain the equipment.


GEORGE: The General goes on to say, right now Iraq is not capable of helping itself and we don't have enough time to do all this before the American drawdown is complete at the end of December. We need years more. Colonel Shaban Barzat Homrin is the Head of Anbar's SWAT team. He says his forces, too, need more training. Colonel Shaban explains that training is more important now than ever because terrorist groups are changing their tactics.


GEORGE: Shaban says it's not like before when terrorists had safe houses where he could track them. Now they are constantly moving from Baghdad to Mosul to Baquba. It's like in America, he says, the criminals are always trying to improve themselves and the security forces need to improve themselves to counter them. The commanders emphasize that their desire for an extended American presence in the Sunni Anbar province has nothing to do with Iraq's uncertain political future. But, just last week, sitting Prime Minister Nuri al-Mailiki gained the support of a Shiite dominated coalition, and will likely serve a second four-year term in office. Sunni leadership now fears that another Shiite dominated Iraqi government combined with fewer American troops on the ground could lead to further Sunni marginalization. Just next door to the Police Chief's office is the Anbar command center. Two watchmen sit at a desk below four flat screen TV's displaying images from 20 cameras placed around Ramadi. The room is staffed by two people, 24 hours a day. The cameras monitor main streets and checkpoints. Some cameras are fixed, others can pan and zoom using a joystick. This would seem to be just the kind of place that the US would trumpet as an example of the Iraqi security forces' success. But camera observer Ali Ibrahim Abdullah isn't so sure.


GEORGE: Adbullah says whenever cameras break our work suffers and even with the cameras that are working you can see that there is dust on the lens. We don't have a specialized team to maintain the cameras. Abdullah says that when a camera breaks it takes a week or longer for it to be fixed because the Iraqi security forces don't know how to fix them. They need to hand over broken cameras to the Americans for repair. Today, in fact, just over half the cameras are working. From the control room you can see the checkpoints at the entrance to the police headquarters, congested Ramadi streets and a downtown market. What you cannot see is the city's main checkpoint to the north. This checkpoint, called the north Ramadi checkpoint, is the main entrance into the city from Baghdad. The soldiers here search hundreds of cars a day. The watchmen in the observation room admit it would be strategically important to monitor this place, but it's too far away to pick up a clear signal using their wireless cameras. Back in the observation room the watchmen explain how they spend their time during their long, 24-hours shifts. Abdullah, one of the camera observers, says it's not that bad because at night there's nothing to do. Ramadi lacks street lights and the cameras lack night vision. For the World, I'm Susannah George in Ramadi.