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Gangs of Iraq

The anatomy of civil war

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Day after day, month after month, scores of bodies litter the streets of Baghdad, many of them tortured and mutilated before they were killed.  To staunch the violence, the U.S. has spent billions of dollars to "stand up" Iraq's new army and police forces and make them capable of bringing security to the country.

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GANGS OF IRAQ takes a hard look at how the four-year training effort has failed  and how these coalition-trained forces have themselves been infiltrated by various sectarian militias.  While President Bush's new "surge" strategy is sending thousands of new troops to Iraq to help control the violence convulsing the country, the effort to stand up Iraqi forces and go after the militias remains a centerpiece of America's strategy.  But can it work?

FRONTLINE spent two months in Iraq in the fall of 2006 and was embedded with 11-man U.S. advisory teams working with Iraqi forces. GANGS OF IRAQ tracks the history and events that led to the current sectarian crisis, why the Iraqi elections didn't curb escalating Shia-Sunni sectarianism, and how top Iraqi officials have downplayed or denied the growing sectarian militia forces. By the summer of 2006, the coalition had identified at least 23 militias operating in Baghdad.  Some were small splinter groups or criminal gangs. But others were large sectarian militias, and the two largest, the Badr Corps and the Mehdi Army, remained enetrenched within Iraq's police and army.

This report includes candid interviews with key U.S military involved in training Iraqis, including Gen. David Petraeus who took charge of the training effort in 2004 and then in 2007 took command of  all U.S. forces in Iraq,  and top Iraqis, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the powerful Shia political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and Bayan Jabr, who headed Iraq's controversial Ministry of the Interior in 2005-2006.

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