Iraqi Police Prepare For The Future

U.S. Soldiers In Iraq
A U.S soldier of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and Iraqi police officers patrol in Fadhiliah, eastern Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 22, 2008. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

As tens of thousands of U.S. troops spend the holidays in Iraq, some of them aren't focusing on retaining control of the region - they're focused on the more-than-able Iraqi National Police. CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer looks at whether the Iraqis are ready to lead once the U.S. troops withdraw.

For years, it's been up to U.S. patrols to keep the peace. But some of them are on a different mission - they are the soldiers vital to the U.S. mission to pull out of Iraq.

Maj. Keith Purvis of the 10th Mountain Division heads a military transition team in Baghdad with the aim of making sure that when U.S. troops pull back to base in June, the Iraqis can take over, Palmer reports.

It's not yet perfect. Some of the Iraqi gunmen look ill-equipped next to their American counterparts. But Purvis recognizes the Iraqi police have to do it their way.

"If the U.S. tries to make them do it exactly the way we want it and it doesn't fit the way the Iraqi unit wants, then they just ignore what we do," Purvis said.

That night, there was more proof the Iraqis are definitely in the lead. The Americans learned they're planning a mission based on an intelligence tip.

In a complete role-reversal, it was the Iraqis doing the briefing of the Americans offering backup.

Quickly and efficiently, the Iraqis raided five houses. They were able to talk to stunned residents and very sure who they were looking for.

In the end, they netted eight men suspected of starting a Shiite militia cell. Two were brought back to the Iraqi police station.

"We are able to do all of our duties without the Americans now, because we've got good training and weapons," said Col. Kareem Hasib of the Iraqi National Police through a translator. "But we still need help with some things."

One thing they're still working on is high-tech forensics.

Americans can check for explosives; they can check immediately if a suspect is in the database. If not, they hand the prisoners back.

And taking over those roles is all part of building up the Iraqis' responsibilities as the Americans draw down.

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."