Even though the United States is withdrawing its troops from Iraq, it still plans on having contacts with the country’s security forces. A major part of that is a police training program run by the State Department. This operation has run into a number of problems including whether the Iraqis want the program, and whether they will help fund it.
|Deputy Interior Minister Asadi has repeatedly said that the State Department's training program is not needed (Alfayhaa TV)
In December, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and the Interior Ministry confirmed that the program was unnecessary. In testimony to the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations, The Inspector General Stuart Bowen stated that he talked to Deputy Minister Asadi in a recent trip to Iraq about his earlier interview, and he said that he stood by his statements. Asadi even had the interview posted on his website at the Ministry. A committee member then asked Bowen why the State Department was continuing on with the program if the Iraqis were not interested in it. He replied that the United States was still concerned about security in Iraq, that there were still constant attacks within the country, and they were therefore still interested in working with the Iraqi police. At the same time, the Inspector General noted, that the training staff would have a hard time safely moving around the country, and that Iraq had not committed to contributing to the program. Half of the cost of the training mission is supposed to be financed by the Iraqis, but that has not happened yet. So far the State Department has gotten $745 million for the program, and has requested another $887 million for 2012. Stuart noted that Iraqi support is not included in the new draft 2012 budget, and Baghdad has not even made the commitment in writing yet. The State Department has not pushed the matter, and appears to be operating as if fulfilling this requirement is not necessary. A few days later, the Interior Ministry told Al-Mada that it no longer needed American trainers, and that it was able to manage security by itself. A spokesman for Deputy Minister Asadi said that whomever the Ministry bought equipment from would provide support, and therefore the State Department’s assistance was not required. Again, this is another example of the Interior Ministry’s disinterest. The Deputy Minister still thinks that it is unnecessary, and apparently so does the rest of the government as it has not made any effort to support it. Throughout America’s effort to rebuild Iraq, it often began programs and projects that it wanted without consulting with the Iraqis about whether they were interested. This led to huge waste, and this training program may be another example.
The State Department looks like it is carrying out a program with no real thought on whether it is needed or not. It seems that it is running the police training mission, because it is what the United States has done in the past, and with other countries, so that’s what it should be doing in Iraq. The fact that the Interior Ministry is ambivalent at best, has not affected State at all. This is exactly the reason why so much of the U.S. reconstruction effort in the country has failed. Without close consultation with Iraqis the Americans can never make progress in developing the country’s capacity. Instead, Washington too often does what it wants, spending millions of dollars, and in this case, putting people at risk of attack by militants, regardless of whether it is effective or not. The United States has been in Iraq for eight years so far, and will have a large diplomatic presence into the future, but on some matters like rebuilding, it doesn’t appear that it has learned much from this experience. Rather it appears ready to repeat the mistakes of the past.
House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations, “Oversight in Iraq and Afghanistan: Challenges and Solutions,” U.S. House of Representatives, 12/7/11
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Iraqi Police Development Program: Opportunities for Improved Program Accountability and Budget Transparency,” 10/24/11
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/11