Iraqi army and police units are deserting their posts after the recent escalation
in insurgent attacks, according to reports from around the country yesterday.
The end of a relative period of calm after the election has posed the first
real test for the embryonic security forces since coalition troops started cutting
back on their military operations in February.
On average 20 Iraqis and two coalition soldiers have died every day this month.
Suspected Sunni insurgents set off two bombs yesterday near a Shia mosque in Baghdad
that killed at least 15 people.
The attack came as political leaders continued to haggle over the formation
of a new government. Iraq's new police and army units, instead of taking responsibility
for imposing law and order, are abandoning patrols or taking refuge in their
guardhouses when challenged.
On the Syrian border, US troops in the Sunni city of Husaybah report mass desertions.
An Iraqi unit that had once grown to 400 troops now numbers a few dozen who
are "holed up" inside a local phosphate plant.
Major John Reed, of the 2nd Marine Regiment, said: "They will claim that
they are ready to come back and fight but there are no more than 30 of them
on duty on any given day and they are completely ineffective."
In Mosul, which has been a hotspot since insurgents fleeing Fallujah effectively
overran it last year, residents have complained to newspapers that police now
rarely patrol and only appear in response to attacks.
But greatest concern has focused on Madain, the town 14 miles south of Baghdad
that in the past few weeks has been at the centre of the biggest crisis amid
conflicting claims of ethnic cleansing.
Residents say that since a series of tit-for-tat kidnappings began three months
ago police have effectively abandoned the town.
Sunni and Shia communities say two to three people have been disappearing each
day since, blaming either elements of the Shia Badr Brigade and Sunni Ba'athists
for the kidnappings.
When a convoy of police did try to install order, insurgents ambushed them.
Those who survived were burnt to death.
The full extent of the lawlessness was confirmed last week when it was announced
that 58 bodies of both sexes and all ages had been discovered in the Tigris
between Feb 27 and April 20.
Both Shia and Sunni political groups have claimed that their communities are
included in the dead. Police have failed to provide an explanation for their
The failure of the victors of January's election to form a government has resulted
in the defence and interior ministries being placed in limbo, and security experts
cite this as partly responsible for the subsequent fall in army and police morale.
Ministerial initiatives against insurgents have all but ceased, many senior
officials are due for replacement and recruitment has been hampered by confusion
over future selection policies.