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Iraq Stops Sending Police for German Training

Mark Caldwell (sms)December 8, 2005

Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Baqer Sulagh has criticized the training of Iraqi police recruits by German experts in the United Arab Emirates and said they would no longer participate in the program.

Iraqis won't be getting any more training from Germany's policeImage: AP

In an announcement whose timing may be more than mere coincidental, Sulagh said he expressed his dissatisfaction to Germany's ambassador to the UAE and added that they were seeking "training programs which were more serious and more effective."

"We aren't convinced by the level of training of the Iraqi police officers by the German experts, nor by their barely seriously manner," the minister said Tuesday during a press conference in Abu Dhabi, according to the UAE news agency Wam.

Entführte Deutsche Susanne Osthoff
Osthoff was kidnapped with her driver on Oct. 25Image: dpa

Even as Sulagh said Bagdad would not be sending any more Iraqis to the next German-run police training program in March, Berlin is desperately trying to secure the release of the hostage Susanne Osthoff.

Ceasing training could meet kidnappers' demands

Osthoff, the first German national to be kidnapped in Iraq, was taken captive last month and a condition for her release was that Germany should stop training Iraqi police officers, according to press reports.

Berlin has not confirmed these reports and said it has no information on Osthoff's whereabouts.

But -- so the speculation goes -- if Iraq were to pull out of the German training scheme, the kidnappers' demands would be met without Germany being seen as capitulating in the face of a terrorist threat.

Anti-war stance no protection for Germans

Geiselnahme im Irak (Videostill)
The kidnappers demanded Germany stop training policeImage: Tagesschau

Some in Germany were surprised at Osthoff's kidnapping, assuming that German nationals would be more or less immune to the threat in Iraq because of Germany's opposition to the to the US-led war.

Berlin refused to send troops to Iraq, even as part of NATO forces. It did, however, agree to train Iraqi security forces, police and soldiers outside the Iraqi territory.

After their training, the recruits were to work as bodyguards for members of the Iraqi government. German instructors gave them basic police training and put them through their paces in simulated kidnappings and attacks on government limousines.

"The work of the bodyguard does not so much involve fighting an assailant, but rather keeping him at bay and then retreating and evacuating the person you're protecting to safety," said Jörg Kerchek, one of the German instructors.

Program difficulties apparent

Irakischer Polizist vor der Wahl
Not all the Iraqi police recruits were suited to the jobImage: AP

In February, then German Interior Minister Otto Schily visited the Al Ain military camp in the United Arab Emirates to see for himself how German police officers were training a first batch of 30 Iraqis.

Schily was surprised see a number of recruits at the course who would evidently derive little benefit from training in hand-to-hand combat because they were physically unsuited to it.

"There are weaknesses in this program," Schily said. "But we know that Iraqi policemen lead dangerous lives and we can only admire them for taking on such a job."

In the meantime Schily has left the German government and the complaint about ineffective German training methods will land on the desk of his successor Wolfgang Schaüble.

Training in Afghanistan to continue

The German government decided to prolong the mandate to work with the Afghan police until the end of 2006. According to Schaüble, a stable, reliable police force in Afghanistan is an essential factor in fighting terrorist attacks.

"Only when there is a fully functioning police force in Afghanistan can democracy, the rule of law and peace be established on a lasting basis," he said.