Iraq After Saddam

Insurgents Are Targeting Police, Destroying Weapons And Buildings

If you think the situation in Iraq is getting better, spend some time, as 60 Minutes did, with a battalion of Florida National Guardsmen.

Many of these guardsmen are Miami cops who now count on Iraqi cops to help them find the bad guys and put them out of commission.

But it's something easier said than done, considering that since Saddam was captured, insurgents have kept up their attacks on American soldiers -- and they've killed at least 25 Iraqi policemen working with them. Correspondent Christiane Amanpour reports.

When Lt. Col. Hector Mirabile took charge in Ramadi and his forces were under daily attack, he pulled out his secret weapon: 24 years of experience with the Miami police force.

"Intelligence, intelligence, intelligence," says Mirabile. "Everything is driven by the intelligence you gather."

Mirabile started gathering intelligence on the insurgents by training Ramadi's new police force to penetrate the guerrilla cells. Today, he's going to test that tactic.

Capt. Rick Roig is leading the raid with information provided by undercover Iraqi policemen who managed to infiltrate the cell.

Just before sunset, Mirabile's men pull out of their base, heading straight into danger. A convoy like theirs is precisely the kind of target insurgents are waiting to ambush. But this time, the Americans spring the surprise, and discover an RPK and 2 AK-47s even before checking the house.

As in all guerrilla wars, civilians and combatants are often hard to tell apart. When questioned by Roig, one Iraqi girl says there are no weapons. But the evidence doesn't lie.

Their police informant had told them that there was a stash of missiles hidden on a farm. So the force keeps searching while the suspected militants lie handcuffed and guarded on the ground. In the end, they didn't find the missiles, but Roig did find rocket-propelled grenades hidden in a water tank.

"The key thing here is that we got the guy we were going after, the leader of this group," says Mirabile. "We got him. That's the important thing. The weapons is a good thing ... it's evidence."

Iraqi insurgents have access to acres and acres of firepower at Saddam's old weapons dumps that have still not been secured.

Artillery shells are used to make the roadside bombs that have killed and maimed scores of American soldiers. The bombs are set off by remote-controlled detonators that are made from simple devices like a car alarm.
With American help, Iraqi undercover cops manage to penetrate the bomb-making cell. But before the police can arrest them, the insurgents find out and they ambush the police.

"It was a very masterfully set ambush," says Mirabile. "They are not dumb. They know what they are doing. The day you stop respecting your enemy, you will die."

And the enemy is now targeting Iraqis who've chosen to work with the Americans, like Gen. Jaddan, Ramadi's police chief.

Jaddan's son had one leg blown off in that ambush -- and the other leg was shattered as well. Doctors at the American military hospital in Baghdad managed to save it, but they don't know whether he'll ever walk again.

As night falls, Roig and the Ramadi police continue their mission to bust the bomb-makers, raiding their homes. An Iraqi undercover cop identifies the suspected moneyman and pistol-whips him. But this is not what the Americans wanted.

"That's not the way we operate. We go and take the target out, and we want him alive so we can ask him questions and stuff," says Roig. "He can listen in. I don't want him touching him."

Why? That's because the unit needs to gather intelligence from these militants, and show the new Iraqi police force new ways of treating their suspects.

"We've now taught them, you don't torture prisoners," says Mirabile. "They were taken aback, 'What do you mean, you don't torture prisoners? How are you going to get the truth out of them?' You use other means, and use your intelligence against theirs."

Acting on new intelligence they've gathered, Mirabile sends out an Iraqi police SWAT team. Their mission? To finally destroy the bomb-making cell.

American soldiers take the lead as they raid an electric plant they believe to be the bomb-makers' base. But in the complex reality of today's Iraq, they've discovered that some of their own police colleagues were in league with the bomb-makers. So, at the back of the plant, they arrest one corrupt cop suspected of selling the remote-controlled devices that detonate the roadside bombs.

Now, Roig goes after the bigger fish, and arrests the foreman of the electrical maintenance shop, whom his sources say is part of the bomb-making cell. They discover this man is the actual bomb-maker responsible for a series of roadside bombs aimed at American soldiers. Along with the arrested policemen, they're all taken back to base. Since then, there have been no more explosions outside the electrical plant.

Does it worry Mirabile that a lot of the people arrested were police officers themselves?

"It does. A lot of the police officers that we do mass hires slip through because the background checks are not totally there," says Mirabile. "We started finding out that many of the people we hired were criminals. We may have hired you, but now we realize that this is a bad policeman."

Roig gives the Iraqi SWAT team a final warning: "Your lives are now bonded together on this mission. If you go out and talk to your friends and tell them I did this, you and your friends will most likely be found in the canal."

Not only are their lives in danger for working with the Americans, they haven't been given the weapons to protect themselves.

"They only gave us these old Kalashnikovs and one magazine of ammunition," says one officer. "Our enemies are armed with heavy machine guns and missiles. How can any policeman deal with this?"

"We're totally demoralized. When we go out on patrol and our car breaks down, we don't have a radio to call for help, so we have to go into someone's home and beg to use their phones," says another young officer.
It's a sad state of affairs, since this is the force that's meant to take over security in Ramadi by February, but that won't be possible unless the Americans beef up this force.

Can these Iraqis really take over when the Americans pull back?

"They have to," says Mirabile. "It's their country."

To understand just how desperate the situation is, you need to take a look at the squad cars. None of them are working, and the police say to get around, they have share cars -- and this is at one of the better police stations.

In the next town, it's much worse because one police station was bombed three months ago. It's hard to imagine how they are going to be able to take over security any time soon.

"At first, they didn't have any weapon whatsoever, and they were saying, 'Are you crazy? We are going out there to do police work and you're not giving us a weapon?' Think about it. You are sending these people to do a job of arresting the bad guys who have AK-47s, RPKs (which are heavy machine guns), RPIs (which are rocket-propelled grenades), and they have what? Two bare fists and hands," says Mirabile. "That doesn't make any logical sense. You have to go ahead and give the weapons."

But why won't they give them weapons to start with?

"Bottom line is, we didn't trust them," says Mirabile.

But now they have to trust them. The U.S. Army delivers 150 AK-47s to that bombed-out police department, but it's still only half of what Maj. Bassem needs.

How can they take on the insurgents once the Americans leave?

"It all depends on how much they help us. When they tried to give us the weapons, we couldn't accept them, because we don't have a safe place to keep them. No storehouse, no locks, not even a door," says Bassem. "Before, we could walk the streets in peace. But now, everyone is afraid."

Working with the Americans is the source of greatest danger. When these soldiers first tried joint street patrols with the Iraqi policemen, they had to surround the station to keep the police from running away in fear.
Even today, a "joint patrol" means one lone Iraqi policeman agrees to go along.

Afterwards, when the Americans go back to base in their heavy armor, the Iraqi police rookie goes back to the burnt-out shell of the police station that was bombed three months ago. And if anyone thought catching Saddam Hussein would end the insurgency, last week, this very same station was attacked again. Just hours after Saddam was captured, a massive car bomb killed 17 of its policemen.