Sun, Jan 01, 2006 - Page 7 News List

US to switch training focus to special police forces

AP , WASHINGTON

US troops in Baghdad will increasingly focus on training the Shiite-dominated special police forces, a top US commander in Iraq said on Friday, reflecting efforts to quell friction among the country's ethnic factions.

Major General William Webster, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, said that in coming months, Baghdad -- the center of gravity for the insurgency -- will probably be the last place coalition forces leave and turn over to the Iraqis.

In carrying out early withdrawals, he said, coalition forces "will be stepping back somewhat from the Iraqi army forces and assisting in greater numbers the Iraqi special police in Baghdad."

Webster said the police training will focus in part on handling detainees.

"It's not specifically designed to prevent them from abusing detainees, but that is certainly part of our goal, just as we helped train the Iraqi army on working with detainees within the rule of law," he said.

He said that the Iraqi detention facilities under the control of Iraq's Interior Ministry remain overcrowded, and the detainees, largely Sunni Arabs, show signs of injuries from past abuse.

He said, however, that recent inspections show no signs of recent abuse.

The US has said it would not hand over prisoners to Iraqi officials until they improve conditions in the prison system.

A recent botched escape attempt left four guards and four inmates dead and a US soldier wounded.

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