Iraqi se­cu­rity forces fac­ing se­ri­ous prob­lems, U.S. over­sight of­fi­cial says

Cor­rup­tion, lo­gis­tics ca­pa­bil­ity among is­sues cited in re­port

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY WAL­TER PIN­CUS pin­cusw@wash­post.com

Iraq’s se­cu­rity forces are con­fronting sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems as the U.S. mil­i­tary pre­pares to with­draw from that coun­try by the end of this year, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port by a top over­sight of­fi­cial.

Though ad­vances con­tinue to be made, cor­rup­tion, lack of ca­pac­ity to han­dle lo­gis­tics and an ab­sence of re­al­is­tic plan­ning threaten to un­der­mine the se­cu­rity in­fra­struc­ture and equip­ment in­tro­duced into Iraq by U.S.-led forces, the spe­cial in­spec­tor gen­eral for Iraq re­con­struc­tion, Stu­art W. Bowen Jr., says in the of­fice’s lat­est quar­terly re­port, re­leased Sun­day.

Since 2003, the United States has pro­vided $58 bil­lion for re­con­struc­tion in Iraq, the re­port says. Of that, al­most $20 bil­lion went to sup­port­ing Iraq’s se­cu­rity forces, in which nearly 800,000 per­son­nel now serve in the mil­i­tary and po­lice units.

Iraqi mil­i­tary forces are con­sid­ered ca­pa­ble of coun­terin­sur­gency, and check­points in Baghdad are be­ing dis­man­tled amid a re­cent de­cline in vi­o­lent in­ci­dents. Nonethe­less, “in­sur­gents con­tin­ued to wage a cam­paign of in­tim­i­da­tion and as­sas­si­na­tion against cer­tain GOI [govern­ment of Iraq] mil­i­tary and civil­ian per­son­nel this quar­ter, killing or at­tempt­ing to kill sev­eral dozen of­fi­cials,” the re­port says.

In re­cent months, the In­te­rior Min­istry has re­ported the as­sas­si­na­tions of “nearly 240” Iraqi Se­cu­rity Forces and in­tel­li­gence per­son­nel and about 120 civil­ian govern­ment em­ploy­ees, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Bowen’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors vis­ited Basra, the cen­ter of Iraq’s oil fields and a key to the coun­try’s eco­nomic devel­op­ment, ear­lier this month. The lo­cal Iraqi army and po­lice com­man­ders said they would need con­tin­ued sup­port even af­ter U.S. forces de­part. Army Lt. Gen. Mo­hammed Huweidi said, “While the Iraqi army and po­lice are self-suf­fi­cient in meet­ing their ba­sic train­ing needs, they con­tinue to need as­sis­tance in de­vel­op­ing their med­i­cal, trans­porta­tion and lo­gis­tics cadres.”

Cor­rup­tion re­mains a ma­jor prob­lem within the se­cu­rity forces and else­where in the Iraqi govern­ment. As of Sept. 30, Iraq’s Com­mis­sion of In­tegrity had sent al­leged cor­rup­tion cases to the courts in­volv­ing 2,000 de­fen­dants and some $380 mil­lion. “ The Min­istry of De­fense had the largest num­ber of em­ploy­ees re­ferred to in­ves­tiga­tive judges, fol­lowed by the Min­istry of In­te­rior,” ac­cord­ing to the Bowen re­port.

In Oc­to­ber, the In­te­rior Min­istry’s in­spec­tor gen­eral re­ported that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his min­istry’s pur­chase of in­ef­fec­tive bomb de­tec­tors from a Bri­tish com­pany had been halted by a min­is­ter who in­voked an ar­ti­cle of the Iraqi crim­i­nal code that al­lows such an ac­tion to pro­tect him­self or an em­ployee. Ac­cord­ing to the in­spec­tor gen­eral, “75 per­cent of the value of the con­tract went to kick­backs re­ceived by Iraqi govern­ment of­fi­cials,” the re­port said.

In Au­gust, 8,080 U.S. govern­ment-owned lap­top com­put­ers were de­clared “aban­doned” by Iraqi port of­fi­cials and auc­tioned off. When U.S. Em­bassy of­fi­cials in­formed Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki, 4,020 lap­tops were re­turned. The Com­mis­sion of In­tegrity, how­ever, held up in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the mat­ter for fear a govern­ment min­is­ter was in­volved, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The lo­gis­tics ca­pa­bil­ity of both the De­fense and In­te­rior min­istries ap­pears “ likely to fall short” of stan­dards hoped for by the time U.S. forces de­part, the re­port says. “Al­though the com­mands and bases to sup­port lo­gis­tics and sus­tain­ment are largely in place, main­tain­ing the [U.S.-and coali­tion funded] equip­ment and in­fra­struc­ture and man­ag­ing the re­sources to carry out the [De­fense Min­istry’s] mis­sion have re­mained a prob­lem,” it says.

In ad­di­tion, U.S. se­cu­rity as­sis­tance to the Iraqis in fis­cal 2011, pro­vided un­der con­tin­u­ing con­gres­sional res­o­lu­tions, has been much less than the ad­min­is­tra­tion planned. The orig­i­nal plan called for $2 bil­lion for the en­tire fis­cal year, which be­gan Oct. 1. So far, how­ever, only $386 mil­lion has been pro­vided for the first six months, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. In ad­di­tion, the fis­cal 2011 De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion bill, signed into law by Pres­i­dent Obama on Jan. 7, al­lo­cated only $1.5 bil­lion for the year. More than $800 mil­lion of the orig­i­nally re­quested $2 bil­lion was al­lo­cated to pro­grams to help sus­tain the Iraqi forces, an amount that will now be much lower.

In Oc­to­ber 2011, the State Depart­ment’s In­ter­na­tional Nar­cotics and Law En­force­ment (INL) mis­sion in Iraq will take over from theU.S. mil­i­tary re­spon­si­bil­ity for train­ing Iraqi po­lice. The re­port notes that the INL has said that, be­cause of fund­ing con­cerns, “it re­duced the num­ber of ad­vis­ers it will al­lot to the pro­gram.”

Al­though INL said that will not af­fect the pro­gram, Bowen’s re­port said some Iraqi In­te­rior Min­istry of­fi­cials are concerned that “ur­gently needed crim­i­nal in­ves­tiga­tive train­ing has not been suf­fi­ciently pri­or­i­tized.”

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