Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Audit Of State Department Training Program For Iraqi Police Finds Fatal Flaws

On October 1, 2011, the Pentagon transferred control of its police training program to the State Department. It is now run by State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The State Department plans on running it for the next five years, at which time the Iraqis are supposed to take command. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction recently released an audit of this training mission, and found that it is falling into many of the same pitfalls as the previous one, which could lead to waste, and an ineffective Iraqi police force.
A new audit questions whether the U.S. will effectively train the Iraqi police (AP)
The 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) signed between Washington and Baghdad allows for a police training mission past the December 31, 2011 withdrawal deadline. It is under this framework that the State Department has taken over the operation since soon the United States will be finished pulling out its military units, which were previously working with the Iraqi police. The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs that will be running the program has gotten $745 million so far from Congress for 2010-2011, and has asked for an additional $887 million in 2012. The State Department plans on conducting this training for the next five years, with the Iraqis taking over many of the costs and duties by the fourth year until it is fully in control by 2016. The Bureau will be working out of police centers in Baghdad, Basra, and Irbil, covering the central, southern, and northern sections of the country respectively. It will focus upon basic training, making the Iraqis more responsible for their forces, building capacity at the Interior Ministry, criminal investigation, border security, and train Iraqis to eventually train themselves. The Iraqis need this help since the police are the weakest part of their security forces. The Interior Ministry is also eventually supposed to take control of internal security, so it needs the staff, capabilities, and units under its command to be able to accomplish this task. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found three major problems with the State Department’s plans, which may threaten the success of the program.

First, the State Department does not have a formal agreement with Baghdad to conduct this training. Washington has been talking about negotiating a deal with Iraq since 2009, but little has been done about it. State claims that it doesn’t actually need an official agreement, but it is written into the rules for the mission. Given that the U.S. government has not put any effort into achieving this goal, and the Iraqi government is taking a nationalist stance towards a continued American presence in Iraq right now, it’s unlikely that any deal will be achieved any time soon. That could threaten the future of the program, because Baghdad could end it at any time. 

Second, the United States lacks a detailed plan on how to measure its success with the Iraqi police, nor how Baghdad is supposed to take over the program within five years. The State Department has no way to asses whether it has achieved its goals with the Iraqis, because it doesn’t know what level they are starting at. The Special Inspector General has been asking the State Department to come up with such details over the last several years, but has never heard anything specific back. State has sent memo after memo to the Inspector General, but none of them include any detailed goals, requirements, or assessment plans. Two and a half years ago the State Department created a team that was supposed to measure the police called the Joint Transition Planning Team, but it never finished its work. Later, Washington signed a $1 million contract to assess the Iraqis, but that went nowhere as well. Now the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs is supposed to be carrying out its own test, which is supposed to be done by November 1. The problem with that was that the Bureau started its training on October 1. For those reasons the new mission only states that its goals are to advise and mentor the Iraqi police. It only has those types of glaring generalities, and nothing about what specifically it hopes to accomplish, how it will confirm its results, and what is necessary to accomplish them. That is a fatal flaw with this new effort.

This repeats the same difficulties the Department of Defense ran into. The Inspector General issued a report on its training mission in October 2010, and found that the Pentagon never developed a comprehensive program. It went through several phases, none of which were coordinated, or had specific long-term goals. Instead, Defense always focused upon getting as many Iraqi officers on duty as possible, not whether they were qualified or not. Every year for example, a new unit would take over training, and they would come up with a whole new set of plans, which were always very general and vague, and paid no heed to what happened before. As a result, the U.S. military never really measured how effective the Iraqi police were. The Americans working on this task formed the habit of simply training the Iraqis, but with no strategic goals in mind. This looks to be continued under the State Department.

Third, the State Department may not even get enough funding because of budget constraints in Washington, and what it does get it may misspend. State originally requested 350 advisers to run the program. That was cut to 190, and then 115, because of America’s economic problems. As of October 2011, they only have 53 working in Iraq. It still wants 190, but that’s questionable because it got $67.4 million less than it requested in 2010, and $94 million less than it asked for this year. These financial constraints also forced State to break up its training program into two phases. Of the funds that it has received, the Inspector General found that only 12% was spent on advisers and managers. 88% went to support staff, transportation, maintenance, and other duties that should be done by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The audit warned that these high operating costs and misappropriation of money may continue into the future, jeopardizing how many advisers State can field in Iraq.

In the end, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction worried that the State Department’s new training mission may waste money, and suffers from a lack of strategic and tactical vision. State is following many of the problems made by the Pentagon, by never coming up with any detailed plans of what it hopes to accomplish. It also has not made an agreement with Baghdad to set out the parameters and future of the assistance even though it is required to, and it is already spending almost all of its limited budget on things not directly related to preparing the Iraqi police and Interior Ministry. After eight years, the Iraqi police are the least developed of the country’s security force. They suffer from a lack of equipment, professionalism, corruption, infiltration by militants, and control by local officials. The U.S. has not really helped solve these problems as it has always just focused upon quantity over quality. The State Department seems doomed to follow along this path with a new and ineffective training program.

For more on the U.S. training mission in Iraq see:

Did The U.S. Do A Good Job Training The Iraqi Police?


Knights, Michael, “The Iraqi Security Forces: Local Context and U.S. Assistance,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, June 2011

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Iraqi Police Development Program: Opportunities for Improved Program Accountability and Budget Transparency,” 10/24/11
- “Iraqi Security Forces: Police Training Program Developed Sizeable Force, But Capabilities Are Unknown,” 10/25/10

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