August 31, 2007 / 4:24 AM / 12 years ago

U.S. panel to urge overhaul of Iraq police: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An independent U.S. panel will recommend a major overhaul of Iraq’s national police force to purge corrupt officers and Shi’ite militants suspected of complicity in sectarian killings, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

The commission established by Congress concluded that rampant sectarianism that has plagued the force since its inception requires that its current units “be scrapped,” the newspaper reported, citing administration and military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The commission, headed by Gen. James Jones, the former top U.S. commander in Europe, was set up to assess the Iraqi police force. The panel was scheduled to present its findings to Congress next week.

The 14-member panel of former or retired military officers, Pentagon officials and law enforcement officers will urge that the Iraqi force be reshaped into a smaller, more elite organization, a senior official familiar with the findings told The New York Times.

The recommendation is that “we should start over,” the official was cited as saying.

A spokesman for Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the New York Times that an effort to retrain Iraqi police force was already under way and Pentagon officials believe that process will weed out sectarianism from the ranks without a complete overhaul.

According to several administration officials, the Jones commission reached largely positive conclusions about the Iraqi Army’s performance since the start of a new security strategy in Iraq this year, the Times reported.

The Jones assessment is one of several reports on Iraq due in the coming weeks that could shape the future of U.S. involvement there. A draft of a congressional report expected next week concluded that Iraq had achieved few of the political and security goals set by Washington.

The White House on Thursday played down the report by the Government Accountability Office saying its standards for measuring progress in Iraq were too high.

The White House urged waiting for an assessment by the U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker to Congress due on September 10 and 12.

Reporting by JoAnne Allen, editing by Stuart Grudgings. e-mail: joanne.allen@reuters.com; Washington Newsroom +1-202-898-8300

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