30 Days From Iraqi Insurgent To Police

Iraqi's training
Iraqi's training

It takes just 30 days to turn an insurgent into a policeman here in the Abu Ghraib area of Baghdad, reports CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan.

That's after they've passed security checks and sworn allegiance to the same Iraqi government they've spent the past four years fighting.

The U.S.calls these mostly-Sunni fighters, "volunteers."

Critics call them America's militia. And in this neighborhood they're becoming the official police force.

Even trained by drill instructors from the Baghdad Police Academy, putting that critical Iraqi stamp of approval on what is really an American idea.

One the U.S. says is succeeding beyond their own expectations.

"We have al Qaeda coming to our checkpoints, coming to a volunteer saying, 'Can you let me talk to the commander, we want to quit, but how do we do this?'" said Lt. Col. Kurt Pinkerton of the 1st Cavalry Division.

"And what do you say?" asks Logan.

"We take very slow steps with them," said Pinkerton.

Al Qaeda terrorists are not allowed to join the "volunteers" manning these checkpoints, says the top U.S. commander in Baghdad.

But Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil's men also don't turn these terrorists away, instead giving them other jobs like road or sewer repair.

That's a remarkable turnaround for an area that until recently served as an important base of operations for al Qaeda.

On this recent visit, Maj. Gen. Fil chatted with locals on the same streets where U.S. forces have fought running battles with terrorists and Sunni insurgents.

But he made it clear these gains are a long way from being permanent:

"What happens if the U.S. pulls out of here?" Logan asks Fil, who is Commander of the 1st Armored Cavalry Division.

"If we were to pull out of this now, immediately, I think it would be a disaster. I don't think there's any doubt about that - it would collapse."

The U.S. hopes are resting on men like Karem Zidane, and his volunteer force. The problem is, he seems to have more faith in his new American friends than in the Shiite politicians who dominate Iraq's central government.

"This government is not good - it has destroyed Iraqi society and it's the reason there's no security," says Zidane, who leads a group of Abu Ghraib-area volunteers.

That lack of trust is mutual, but both sides need U.S. help and that's got them working together - for now.