Documentary filmmaker says Iraq troops training may be arming America's enemies

Michael Roston
Published: Tuesday February 6, 2007
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In an interview at Salon today, the maker of a forthcoming PBS documentary warns that America's efforts to "stand up" an Iraqi armed forces may be arming and training the very groups contributing to the country's instability.

Mark Smith, an award-winning television journalist, was interviewed by Salon's Alex Koppelman. His forthcoming documentary is called Gangs of Iraq and will air on PBS as part of its America at a Crossroads series. In the interview, Smith warned that the Mahdi Army, the Shi'a militia led by Moqtada al-Sadr, may be a primary beneficiary of the American effort to build a viable Iraqi security force.

"We're not training the Mahdi Army by intent, but we're providing training for people who may take our training program and then go join the militias," Smith told Koppelman. He added, "As early as August '04, there are photographs of uniformed Iraqi police celebrating with the Mahdi Army after a battle in Najaf."

Smith does not only single out the Mahdi Army. He also notes the heavy infiltration of the police by the Badr Corps, the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

"There are numerous reports of whole units of Badr Corps coming intact into the ministry to work in the police forces," Smith warns.

Smith then suggests that this problem raises large questions about the focus on security forces training in US policy.

"It's the centerpiece of our policy, but as I've said, trying to get people to form a national police force in the middle of a civil war is a very difficult, if not impossible, task. It's like going into Kentucky during our Civil War and getting people from the North and the South," he says.

The full interview can be read at Salon's website after watching an advertisement.