American commanders acknowledge that men affiliated with the militia are still working within Iraqi police and army units. But in areas like the one patrolled by 1-8 Cavalry — which borders the militia stronghold of Sadr City — anyone of any consequence is affiliated, at least to some extent, with the militia or Sadr’s political organization. Determining where a soldier or policeman’s loyalties lie is a complicated task. “Is there influence? Yeah, there are still individuals in Jaish al-Mahdi who are in the security forces,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jeffrey Sauer, who commands 1-8 Cavalry. But, says Sauer, being affiliated with JAM usually has no practical meaning unless a member of the the security forces acts in a way complicit with militia violence or criminal activity.
The militia continues to intimidate civilians, a situation made worse by residents’ lack of faith in their own police and army. The danger is that once the U.S. military begins reducing its presence over the next several months Baghdad’s civilians will once again find themselves at the mercy of the militia. [complete article]