Friday, June 19, 2009

Iraqis Unwilling To Maintain Their Army

Nearly every official report on Iraq’s security forces notes that they do not have the ability to supply and support themselves. Few if any details however, are ever given on what exactly this means. In April 2009 the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) conducted an audit on the U.S. military’s effort to build up the Iraqi Army’s logistics capabilities. The SIGIR found that the Iraqi Defense Ministry has refused to take responsibility of the maintenance program created by the Americans, has not sent soldiers to be trained in these duties, and that the Iraqi Army cannot operate independently as a result.

Beginning in early 2005 the U.S. command in Iraq began working on Iraq’s supply system. The goal was to allow the Iraqi Army to act autonomously without U.S. support. The program focused upon maintenance, supply, transportation, and health services. The plan has gone through six phases, two of which are still operating. In total the program has received $682.2 million in funding, $572.0 million of which has been spent. The orders for the plan were never clear, they have been changed 161 times, there was little oversight, and has not been supported by the Ministry of Defense. The result is that costs have increased $420.5 million, and are expected to go up an additional $60 million until the last order expires in January 2010.

The SIGIR audit focused upon Orders 3, 5 and 6. Order 3 was started in May 2005 and completed in June 2007. It set up ten maintenance facilities, one for each Iraqi Army division. The order was also to provide training for Iraqi soldiers so that they could operate the bases. Order 5 was a follow up to provide training and maintain the ten facilities. It was supposed to end on May 31, 2009, but has been extended to November 30, 2009. Order 6 was for maintenance on 8,500 HUMVEES that were transferred from the Americans forces to the Iraqis. It is due to expire on July 6, 2009, but will be extended until January 6, 2010.

The three orders have faced daunting challenges since they began. On the American side, the U.S. never assigned enough personnel to oversee the orders, which could have led to corruption and waste. Many of the benchmarks were unclear, changed, or never followed. For example, 80% of the Iraqi vehicles were to be operational at all times, but this was never enforced. Order 3 and 5 had no details on how they were to be evaluated as successful or not. The U.S. has also transferred eight of the 10 maintenance facilities to Iraqi control, despite the fact that the Defense Ministry has not accepted responsibility for them. There is no agreed upon process for the handover of these bases, yet they are happening anyway. The Iraqi Army also only sent one class of soldiers to be trained. Many of them lacked the education for the training. That is not uncommon. An on-going Iraqi Army audit has found that 24% of the force is not qualified for their jobs, and that 15% are illiterate. This is mostly blamed on the Americans drive to increase the security forces as quickly as possible, which emphasized quantity over quality. Most of the soldiers that did show up for training complained about not getting paid for weeks, and quit before they were finished. The Defense Ministry has not sent any new soldiers since then. That was the major reason why Order 5 was issued when Order 3 ended, and why the U.S. military is looking to extend Order 5 and 6 as well.

In the end, the Special Inspector General does not believe that the Iraqi Army has improved at all under this program. There is no evidence that the Iraqi forces are any more capable of maintaining their equipment now than when the plan began in 2005. The main reason is that the Defense Ministry has given no support to the effort at all. That leaves the Iraqi armed forces almost completely dependent upon the Americans for their logistics. The two existing programs have already been extended, and will probably be again and again until Baghdad does something about this problem. This will likely be another cause for the U.S. military and the Iraqi government to ask President Obama to maintain a residual force in Iraq after the December 31, 2010 deadline for all combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. The Iraqi security forces still don’t have the equipment to protect themselves from outside threats. The SIGIR audit shows that they can’t even sustain their counterinsurgency campaign without the Americans as well.

SOURCES

Arraf, Jane, “Iraqi Army: almost one-quarter lacks minimum qualifications,” Christian Science Monitor, 5/22/09

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” March 2009

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/09
- “Security Forces Logistics Contract Experienced Certain Cost, Outcome, and Oversight Problems,” 4/26/09

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