US training program for Iraq’s Police lacks focus: USgovernment watchdog

A U.S. State Department program to train Iraqi police lacks focus, could become a “bottomless pit” of American money and may not even be wanted by the Iraqi department it’s supposed to help, reports released by a U.S. government watchdog show.

The findings by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction paint what is supposed to be the State Department’s flagship program in Iraq in a harsh light.

The report comes at a crucial time for the State Department as it assumes sole responsibility for securing U.S.-Iraqi ties as American forces leave by the end of this year.

On October 01, 2011 the State Department took over the job of training Iraqi police from the Defence Department. According to the inspector general’s report, the training program faces many problems.

Only a small portion — about 12 percent — of the millions of dollars budgeted will actually go to helping the Iraqi police, the report said. The “vast preponderance of money” will pay for security and other items like living quarters for the people doing the training, the review found.

The audit also said that although the State Department has known since 2009 it would be taking over the training program, it failed to develop a comprehensive and detailed plan for the training.

“Without specific goals, objectives and performance measures, the PDP (Police Development Program) could become a ‘bottomless pit’ for U.S. dollars intended for mentoring, advising and training the Iraqi police forces,” the report stated.

Few dispute, however, that Iraqi police are far from ready to fully protect their country — or even themselves.

On Monday, police and health officials said four separate attacks against traffic police in Baghdad killed two policemen and three civilians. Twelve people, including eight policemen, were injured.

In the inspector general’s report, the oversight agency also found that budget concerns led to the program being significantly downsized.

In 2009, the State Department agency in charge of the training, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, estimated it would cost about $721 million to pay for a program with 350 police advisers. That averaged out to about $2.1 million per adviser, said SIGIR.

But in December 2010, the program was downsized to 190 advisers while costs had increased, the report stated. According to SIGIR calculations, the average cost per adviser jumped to $6.2 million per year.

By July of this year, the number of advisers had dropped to 115 for what the State Department described as Phase 1 of the program. If its budget request is approved for fiscal year 2012, the program could be beefed up again to 190 advisers, State Department officials told the oversight agency.

Despite the considerable outlay in U.S. taxpayer money, the Iraqi government has yet to sign off on the program and doesn’t seem to want it.