I’ve written before about the need to get more Iraqis involved in securing their country. I went so far as to suggest that perhaps the Badr Brigade, a large anti-Saddam militia that threatened to take matters into their own hands after the mosque bombing in Najaf, should be put to work.
Now it appears that they are.
U.S. authorities and Iraqi police decided to allow armed bands of Shiites to patrol their holy sites.
The U.S.-led coalition has even offered quick training sessions for Shiite volunteers – including some militia members – and nicknamed them the “shrine police.”
I think that this is a big step in the right direction. If we can get these “shrine police” to play by the rules and provide effective security, everyone is better off. We won’t need to devote so many resources to the shrines ourselves, and the Iraqi people will have security forces that they respect and admire more than the outsiders occupying their land.
The shrine police are loosely under coalition control and report to Najaf civil authorities. In general, the local tribal council chooses them.
The volunteers receive 14 days of training from the American military, including how to summon an ambulance, some emergency medical care and proper use of weapons.
There is, of course, the potential for trouble. The Badr Brigade, some members of which are part of the shrine police, has ties to Iran and may be acting on its behalf in Iraq.
This is dangerous ground, but the opportunity for good shouldn’t be overlooked.