There are more than 8,600 Glock pistols, the standard police-issued sidearm, in the main weapons warehouse in Baghdad, he said. An additional 120,000 are due to arrive in the coming months, he said.
The U.S. attempt to recruit female police officers faced hurdles from the start. Phillips said that although hundreds of women have gone through the police academy and performed as well as, if not better than, men, few have been given assignments outside the office.
Even so, the policewomen interviewed said they had held out hope that eventually they would gain a genuine role in fighting crime.
"We know there are policewomen in other countries," said one 30-year-old woman, wearing a long black abaya and a pale pink head scarf. She said she became a policewoman after her husband, who had been a police captain, was killed. It was, she said, "a sign of love" for him. It also was a way to support her three children.
For a few months, she said, she was a member of the "rescue police" squad, on the streets in uniform, mainly frisking women at checkpoints. But in April, she and another woman said, they were among dozens of female police reassigned to office jobs. "Now, we are not so happy," said the woman, who, like her colleagues, requested anonymity.
A young woman seated beside her, in trendy brown suede boots and an embroidered skirt, said joining the police force "was a new opportunity" for women to earn good salaries and break out of traditional roles. "For three years I've done my best, but unfortunately, they have not appreciated our efforts," she said.
One colleague, a 37-year-old widow rearing three daughters in the capital's Sadr City area, said she considered her weapon "like a brother to me. I have to keep it with me."
For her and other Iraqi women, police work was seen as a chance to break away from the limited options left for many Iraqis after the war, and to make decent money. The women interviewed said they earn between $600 and $700 a month, about twice what most Iraqi civil servantsmake.
Despite the ministry order, the women said they would not hand in their weapons. If their pay is withheld at the end of the month, they plan to stage a protest.
They added that they were counting on U.S. authorities to back them up and force the ministry to back off.
Phillips, though, said U.S. officials have limited options.
"It's a sovereign nation. We turned over the running of their own police force to them," he said. "We don't have a veto."