As a sign of increased security in Iraqi provinces, Operations Commands will soon begin handing over security duties to local police forces, officials told Diyaruna.
Under the new plan, which the Iraqi government intends to implement this year, the handover of security duties will begin in the southern provinces and later extend to the rest of Iraqi provinces.
Operations Commands currently handle security duties in all Iraqi provinces, with each command commonly handling security in one province, except for the al-Rafidayn Operations Command, which handles security in four provinces at once.
Al-Rafidayn Operations Commander Maj. Gen. Ali Ibrahim Daboun, who oversees security in the provinces of Dhi Qar, Muthanna, Maysan and Wasit in southern Iraq, said the details of the plan are still being discussed in a series of meetings and conferences with local police commanders.
"The handover will take place in stages, starting with the southern provinces to later reach the rest of the provinces, based on a timetable that does not extend beyond July," he told Diyaruna.
The local police in each province will take over full security duties, he said, noting that the Ministry of Interior will serve as a contact point and will in turn receive instructions from the Joint Operations Command, headed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
"The role of the Operations Commands in the provinces will then be limited to monitoring, supervision and the submission of regular reports on the security situation in each province," Daboun said.
Meanwhile, the army will continue to enforce security outside the cities and at Iraq’s borders, he added.
"The local police will take over all the duties previously handled by the Operations Commands, including maintaining the security of government institutions, security enforcement and the pursuit of wanted individuals," he said.
The police chief in every province, along with the head of the provincial security committee -- who is usually the governor -- will serve as the supreme security authority in each province.
Local governments 'are ready'
Local government officials welcomed the plan, saying they are fully prepared to take over security duties despite a shortage in personnel and vehicles.
"Dhi Qar's local government and its police force are ready to fully take over security duties from the Operations Command," provincial council member Hasan Waryoush told Diyaruna.
He expressed concerns over a weak police infrastructure, lack of adequate equipment and shortage in personnel.
"However, we are still able to take over security duties from the Operations Command thanks to police efforts and residents' co-operation," he said, stressing the importance of citizens reporting any suspicious movements or individuals to the police.
The local government had previously discussed in a meeting with former Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi in July 2018, the federal government's plan to support Dhi Qar's police force with equipment and personnel, he said.
The local government has long been working on tightening security procedures independently from Operations Commands, he said, noting that it had been planning to procure an integrated security camera surveillance system before the economic crisis hit.
Strong social support
The southern provinces have several strength factors that help them handle security internally without the need for Operations Commands or the army, political analyst Wissam al-Sayyid Tahir told Diyaruna.
"The most important strength factor in these provinces is their tribal makeup and the social cohesion they enjoy," he said, which translates into the formation of strong ties with security forces in the provinces.
"No security system can succeed without the support of the [local] population or the intelligence residents provide," Tahir said, noting that both conditions currently exist in the southern provinces.
He noted the burgeoning intelligence effort by security agencies in all Iraqi provinces, "which has become an important element in thwarting terrorist attacks before they occur and in snaring the most senior terrorist leaders in the country".