Looking at video of the overrun police headquarters
in Moqdadia, the first question that comes to my mind is: Why so little damage?
Burnt out police vehicles, yes. Gutted building, yes. Bloodied clothes, yes. But nothing recorded on the camera footage I saw to indicate a massive, long, drawn-out fight. It begs the question: How could police in a secure compound allow themselves to be overrun?
It's happened before, most notably in Mosul in November 2004, when insurgents stormed multiple police outposts, torching and destroying many of them. Almost over night, the police ran away. The assessment at the time was many of the police were sympathetic to or afraid of the insurgents.
The police force in Moqdadia should be better trained and by most accounts is better motivated than the force in Mosul two years ago. So was there an informer among their ranks giving insurgents vital information about weaknesses? Or were they simply so ill-equipped or poorly trained they couldn't match the insurgents?
U.S. military officers have told me they believe infiltration of Iraq's new security forces is so significant it may take years to eradicate. But if the police were let down by poor equipment or a lack of training, then that raises other questions about the speed with which they are being put in harm's way.
The area around Moqdadia is typical of regions in Iraq where U.S. forces are handing over "battle space" to Iraqis. It puts Iraq's police and army in operational control of a clearly defined area, allowing U.S. troops to scale back and ultimately leave the country.
Regardless of which explanation answers my initial question, the simple answer may be the one provided by U.S. field commanders: Iraq's police and army are a long way from standing alone.