Interview With Al-Iraqiya News

William R. Brownfield
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
U.S. Embassy
Baghdad, Iraq
March 16, 2011

IRAQIYA: Welcome to all of our viewers. We have a special interview with Mr. Brownfield, Assistant Secretary for INL. He’s made a special visit to Iraq to discuss the aftermath of the withdrawal of U.S. forces, taking place by the end of this year. Welcome to you, Mr. Brownfield.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: Thank you, Mr. Kareem. I thank you and your viewers and all of your audience.

IRAQIYA: Sir, I would like to ask you about your job title as Assistant Secretary for INL. Our viewers may think that your visit may have to do with anti-narcotics, so can you give us an overview of your visit?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: Of course. First, may I remind you that the INL Bureau has existed for forty years. In the early 1970s, our complete focus was on drugs, and we concentrated very much in Latin America and in some countries in South America. Over the past few years, we have expanded our responsibilities greatly. We are now responsible for all of the U.S. operations, programs and activities that involve not just drugs, but any form of organized crime, support for law enforcement, and support generally for rule of law in all of its aspects, from police through investigators, courts and the corrections system itself. I’m on my first visit to Iraq as the Assistant Secretary. I arrived yesterday and I will stay through Thursday. I am here because, in our judgment, we have reached a transition point that both governments and peoples have talked about for five years. It is a change in programs that are managed by the military – the Iraqi military and the United States military – transitioning to programs and operations run by civilians. Our objective this year is to manage a program to support and provide education and training to civilian Iraqi police in the expectation that, in the years ahead, as the military gradually withdraws from the communities, the police will be able to take on the security role and then the far more sophisticated role of complicated investigations, money laundering and other more sensitive crimes.

IRAQIYA: Do I understand that you will be focused on the domestic security in Iraq and criminal cases more than on the military aspects or providing the military with equipment?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: Let me explain, if you will permit me, our proposed program for this year, and I am consulting this program with the Government of Iraq on this visit. We propose to establish and work with the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and its police institutions at three training centers in Iraq – here in Baghdad, Basrah, and Erbil. From those three training centers, we will hope to be able to reach out and work as well with police in as many as 28 additional locations around the country, but from those 3 hubs. So if we are successful, we will be able to reach out to almost all parts of the country and train in 31 different locations. The number may change, because obviously reality may change – political reality, legal reality, security issues – but that is our hope and expectation. We would envision a program that works with Iraq’s own police training colleges and academies and offers additional courses and training. On sophisticated matters – I just visited today the forensics lab at the Baghdad Police College where they are training in very sophisticated techniques related to DNA and biological evidence collected from crime scenes. So training is very much the first part of the program. The second part would be offering advisors and mentors who would actually be located in police headquarters and stations. They would be U.S. personnel with police experience who are prepared to share that experience with their counterparts – the civilian police in the cities, towns, and countryside of Iraq. Our belief is that the military has performed magnificently their security mission, and they have paid a very high price – thousands and thousands of Iraqi and American soldiers and airmen and Marines have given their lives to provide better security for Iraq today. It is now the responsibility of Iraq’s police and their American counterparts to ensure that those sacrifices were not in vain and that they can provide the same security as police that the military fought so hard to provide over the last eight years.

IRAQIYA: So basically you have mutual convictions and understandings with the Iraqi government that the military units will withdraw to locations outside the cities and you’ll begin your program. So you have common understandings between the governments . .

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: At the end of the day, this will be a matter for decision between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior. We’re prepared to support and cooperate, but how they distribute their forces on the ground, whether military or police, is obviously a decision for the sovereign government of the Republic of Iraq. Our view is that logic suggests the first mission is a military mission, and that mission is to drive out the organized or semi-organized forces that are attacking and causing great pain and suffering and violence to the communities. As the military completes its mission, logically the police follow behind them and provide law and order and long-term stability. That is not a military mission. The military is not trained to do police investigations or collect evidence from crime scenes or provide evidence to prosecutors or judges. That is a police mission, whether in Iraq or any of the other 191 countries in the world. So the logic is that as the military completes its mission, the police are able to fill in behind them and provide long-term security, thereby allowing the military to move on to other missions and priorities, but I repeat – that is a decision for the Government of Iraq – our job is to support and cooperate.

IRAQIYA: Of course this goes without saying, but I’d like to ask whether your program is actually a new one or basically a program built on an existing program.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: Good question, thank you. It’s important for us all to recognize that for the past 5 years there has been a very energetic police training program in Iraq. It’s been managed by my very good friends and colleagues in the United States Department of Defense and the United States Armed Forces, working closely with their Iraqi military counterparts to create an Iraqi police. They were responding to a crisis - as you well know, in 1985-86, the Iraqi police had challenges that were beyond their ability to manage, and the Iraqi and U.S. military assumed many functions that traditionally are handled by the police. They did an excellent job and provided basic training to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi police personnel. Our program launching this year starts from that base. We’re not going back to 1985 – today there are hundreds of police who have received basic training. We wish to offer training at a more sophisticated level, so they are not just community police but skilled investigators – at forensics, crime scene management and specific crimes that torment many thousands of Iraqi citizens. Perhaps it’s explosives or kidnapping or drugs. Perhaps it is frontier and border issues or smuggling through cities or across borders. In other words, the program seeks to make them more skilled as police. At the end of the day, I would say that this is good for Iraq’s police organizations and Iraqi people and quite frankly, for the Iraqi Armed Forces because it allows them to focus on more and higher priority security missions in the future.

IRAQIYA: As a specialist in this field, how do you view the types of challenges and threats that will face Iraq in the future or in the aftermath of the withdrawal of U.S. forces?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: It will be a challenge, but we knew it would be, even as far back as 6 or 7 years ago. We’re entering a transition which means change. Human beings are always uncomfortable with change because it’s something new. I think this change is good and positive and an excellent signal to the people of Iraq that this year we can actually talk about more police responsibility and less military responsibility. I think it’s positive that when there are crowd issues or small riots or demonstrations that the security can be provided by the police rather than the military. I think it’s positive that the Iraqi Armed Forces can focus on their strategic mission and not be responsible for providing basic law and order in the cities of Iraq. Will it be difficult? Of course. There will undoubtedly be moments where we’re learning lessons as we go along. I expect we’ll have to change some of the courses, training and cooperation we do with the Iraqi police, as we learn lessons. Perhaps we’ll have to focus on another area more in the future than we have planned for. But at the end of the day, I think this is a good story. This is what we were all hoping would happen 6 years ago – that we could get to the point where security on the streets of Iraq’s cities would be a police responsibility and priority, not that of the military. It will be difficult at times, but I believe that this is very good news for Iraq.

IRAQIYA: In terms of this program, are you waiting for the government or rest of security ministry positions to be filled, or will you go ahead with the program?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: Good question. Our key program would be working with the Ministry of Interior, but we would also hope and need to have support from the Ministries of Justice and Defense. Obviously logic tells you that you must have a counterpart and someone you can talk to. We have however had excellent conversations and planned very well for this program. I’m aware of no holes where we’ve been unable to complete our planning due to the current state of the Iraqi government. There are still issues where we need to agree, and that is why I am here in Iraq – and I look forward to more conversations in the future, including when all positions have been filled and the leadership is in place in all Ministries.

IRAQIYA: Who did you meet with in the Government and who will you meet during your visit? Have your talks been based on these topics or have you touched on other issues?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: I’ve had meetings in Basrah, today in Baghdad and tomorrow afternoon in Erbil – the three hubs where we propose to work with the Iraqi police and the Ministry of Interior to do more planning and advising. In each location, I’ve had meetings or hope to have them with national government officials, as well as with local and regional officials, and finally with the actual Iraqi police counterparts with whom we’ll be working. For example, today I had the opportunity to meet with senior representatives in the Council of Representatives. I’ve had excellent meetings with the Ministry of Interior and the Baghdad Police College. I’ve met with senior police officials and hope tomorrow to meet with the highest levels of Iraqi national government before traveling to Erbil. It’s my hope that when I leave Iraq, I will have a clear understanding of the immediate practical challenges that we will have to resolve – how many buildings must be constructed, how many humans we will need at each of our locations, what our transportation will be– very practical questions. I hope I’ll have a clear understanding of the perspective of the regional leaders, particularly in Basrah and Erbil – and I hope I will have a clear understanding of the desires and priorities of the national government, because my purpose is to support the Iraqi government’s efforts in this regard. Both governments agree this is a positive thing to do, and I am here to ensure that our program and support and assistance is moving in the direction that Iraq’s government believes it should move.

IRAQIYA: Thank you very much. Do you think the relationship between the U.S. and Iraq will undergo a fundamental change in the aftermath of 2011? Will it be a gradual change from military to civilian cooperation or both? There are questions about these issues among the Iraqis.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: I hope this change will be gradual but systematic. I believe it’s good for Iraq and the U.S. that this mission is changing from a military mission to a police and Ministry of Interior mission. This is good news because the military – whether Iraqi or U.S. – is not trained to do police work. This is why every country has a military and a police service that are different. I believe that both governments, countries and people have been hoping for 5 or 6 years for this moment when the mission shifts from military to civilian services, and I believe it’s very important to both governments that we do this well and right. I believe it’s important that we cooperate very closely with both the Iraqi and American military through this transition. They’ve been working very well and at great sacrifice to make this moment possible, and it’s essential for us to ensure that they have not sacrificed in vain. I hope when I come here in perhaps a year’s time, I can sit down with you again, and you can say to me “This has been very successful. The police are now responsible for all of the security in the streets of the towns and cities of Iraq”. From my perspective, that would be success and what we’re trying to accomplish. I hope this is what you described – a transition, a shift in the relationship. The Armed Forces will continue to cooperate. They have cooperated superbly for 8 years, and that will continue. But what we must do is ensure that the civilian branches responsible for police and law enforcement, for prosecution and trial, for corrections incarceration – that we are cooperating at the same level as the Armed Forces have been cooperating for the last 7 or 8 years.

IRAQIYA: About this program and your visit as a high-ranking official, do you focus on this program specifically or to touch on the other aspects of the security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, including other strategic topics?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: May I confirm what you have suggested with your question? The good news is that we don’t require a new international agreement for this program. We already have a Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq and the U.S. that permits and authorizes this sort of cooperation. There are sub-agreements we’ll need to permit hundreds of police advisors to work with their Iraqi counterparts, but we do not require a new strategic agreement between our countries. That is positive news, because this means we can begin very quickly, and even today I’m able to talk about a program that will begin to operate as early as July of this year, and I would hope by October would be in full swing, that we would have all of our personnel available and able to participate in training or advising missions in most of the cities of the Republic of Iraq. It saves a great deal of time not having to negotiate a completely new agreement and then process that agreement through our two national legislatures.

IRAQIYA: Our time is getting short, and I’d like to ask about the content of our discussion. As some in the media and those who follow the events in Iraq . . . it’s ironic for the Iraqi people that the U.S. is being criticized for not coming to the aid of the rebels in Libya, but at the same time was criticized for toppling the terrible regime of Saddam Hussein. Do you find this ironic? Sometimes the U.S. is called upon to help, but when it came to the aid of the Iraqi people in toppling Saddam’s regime, it was also criticized.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: May I tell your listeners that, in the English language, at least in my home state of Texas, we have an expression, and I hope it translates well, and the expression is you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t – in other words, regardless of what you do, you will be criticized. I do not claim to be a political expert on the events here in the region of the last two months. I will offer one lesson that I believe is applicable in every country that has undergone a dramatic change in the past two months. In those countries where either the military or police were well-trained or were professionals that had a link to their communities and their people, the change and the transition was largely peaceful. There was great drama and very dramatic change, but there was not a great deal of blood. You have described or mentioned a country where there has been a great deal of blood and violence. I would suggest to you that in Libya, there was clearly no strong, professionalism in either their Armed Forces or their police. There was no link between the security forces and the people, and that was made very clear by the hundreds if not thousands of innocent citizens of Libya who have been killed or wounded by their own Armed Forces or police. The conclusion that I draw and invite you and your viewers to reach is that when the Armed Forces and police are well-trained, highly motivated and professional, the country is more stable, the change is more peaceful, and democracy has a greater chance for the future. If you wish to draw a lesson from that, in terms of where we’re going and what we’re doing jointly between the U.S. and the Government of Iraq, I invite you to draw that conclusion.

IRAQIYA: Thank you very much, Secretary Brownfield. Thank you for your time and for talking to us.