So on Sunday, NYT’s Tim Arango reported from Baghdad that the U.S. May Scrap Costly Efforts to Train Iraqi Police. Quick excerpt:
BAGHDAD — In the face of spiraling costs and Iraqi officials who say they never wanted it in the first place, the State Department has slashed — and may jettison entirely by the end of the year — a multibillion-dollar police training program that was to have been the centerpiece of a hugely expanded civilian mission here.
What was originally envisioned as a training cadre of about 350 American law enforcement officers was quickly scaled back to 190 and then to 100. The latest restructuring calls for 50 advisers, but most experts and even some State Department officials say even they may be withdrawn by the end of this year.
The training effort, which began in October and has already cost $500 million, was conceived of as the largest component of a mission billed as the most ambitious American aid effort since the Marshall Plan.
Actually, according to SIGIR’s estimate, as of October 2011, the United States has spent about $8 billion to staff, train, and equip Iraq’s police forces.
On cross-cultural police mistraining or where in heaven’s name did we find these instructors?
A lesson given by an American police instructor to a class of Iraqi trainees neatly encapsulated the program’s failings. There are two clues that could indicate someone is planning a suicide attack, the instructor said: a large bank withdrawal and heavy drinking.
The problem with that advice, which was recounted by Ginger Cruz, the former deputy inspector general at the American Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, was that few Iraqis have bank accounts and an extremist Sunni Muslim bent on carrying out a suicide attack is likely to consider drinking a cardinal sin.
Last month many of the Iraqi police officials who had been participating in the training suddenly refused to attend the seminars and PowerPoint presentations given by the Americans, saying they saw little benefit from the sessions.
The largest of the construction projects, an upgrade at the Baghdad Police College that included installing protective covering over double-wide residence trailers (to shield against mortar attacks) and new dining and laundry facilities and seminar rooms, was recently abandoned, unfinished, after an expenditure of more than $100 million. The remaining police advisers will instead work out of the American Embassy compound, where they will have limited ability to interact with Iraqi police officials.
Read in full here.
That Iraqi police officials see little benefit from these training sessions should not be news to anyone. Last year, Iraq’s Senior Deputy Minister of Interior Adnan al Asadi told SIGIR: “What tangible benefit is there to my ministry of 650,000 people who are in the midst of massive security challenges on the streets of Iraq? Very little.”
Frankly, we can understand his point. There are bombings here and there, there’s an arrest warrant for the country’s vice president for terrorism charges, and we are training them on human resources and online recruitment, potential training venues in the United States, two-hour seminars on the “mediums of communication and how they are used to better communicate,” English language, GoCase Management Software for Commission of Integrity (but lead COI programmer was killed in spring 2011), and so on and so forth.
And there is the fact that Iraq has not made the financial contribution toward the cost of the Police Development Program (PDP) as required by US law and policy. SIGIR has pointed out that Iraq is certainly able to make such a contribution, and its failure to do so raises genuine concerns about its commitment to the program.
In last year’s appearance at the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, United States House of Representatives, Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., the Inspector General of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction had this to say:
“While the U.S. government views the PDP as about a billion dollar capacity-development program, the Iraqis view it as 115 English-speaking police advisors (25 of whom will be stationed in the stable Kurdistan Region) providing diverse training and support. With those advisors come burdens, including requests from the U.S. Embassy for land use agreements, for visas for third country national security guards, for weapons permits for armed security teams, and the like. The land use issue is significant. The primary PDP location in Baghdad is at Forward Operating Base Shield, which is right in the middle of an unstable area of Baghdad that houses the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Oil, and the Baghdad Police College. The Iraqis expressed concern that the placement of American advisors in that location may attract attacks that could affect nearby facilities.” [SIGIR 11-003T].
Police Development Program Sites in Iraq
Image via SIGIR
(click image for larger view)
We should not forget that Thomas R. Nides, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, in a February briefing with reporters in Washington said: “We have stood up a robust police-training program, which is doing a terrific job working with the local police in training and developing a program, which I think will pay enormous dividends.”
We can’t say if anyone has actually been able to sketch fully what those “enormous dividends” are like.
In any case, Sunday is a working day at the US Embassy in Baghdad, and yesterday, it released a Tarzan statement in response to the NYT report, which can be described as “a victory cry of the bull ape” sort of statement — “Police Development Program is a Vital Part of the U.S.- Iraqi Relationship”
Despite a New York Times report to the contrary, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the Department of State have no plans to shut down the Police Development Program (PDP) in Iraq that began in October 2011. According to U.S. Embassy Spokesman Michael McClellan, “The Iraqi Government and the State Department regularly review the size and scope of our law enforcement assistance efforts to ensure that these programs best meet the needs of Iraq’s security forces.“
As part of its review of staffing and space issues in early 2012, and in close consultation with the Iraqi Government, the Embassy and the Department of State decided to return the Baghdad Police College Annex to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and relocate U.S.-funded advisors to the Embassy compound by the end of 2012.
Read the full statement here.
We are seriously wondering if 1) anyone actually believe any part of that statement; and 2) if the US Embassy in Baghdad bothered to read SIGIR’s audit of the Iraq Police Development Program: Opportunities for Improved Program Accountability and Budget Transparency from October 2011
The audit, which according to SIGIR, was initially was impaired by the State Department’s lack of cooperation, and resulted in limited access to key officials/documents slammed the State Department’s handling of the Iraqi training program:
- DoS does not have a current assessment of Iraqi police forces’ capabilities upon which to base its program.
- While DoS has further defined the program since the option was adopted, it has not developed specific goals on what is to be accomplished, intermediate and longer-term milestones, metrics to assess progress and accomplishments, and or means to ensure transparency and accountability for program costs and performance.
- Without specific goals, objectives, and performance measures, the PDP could become a “bottomless pit” for U.S. dollars intended for mentoring, advising, and training the Iraqi police forces. Meetings held with Iraqi police officials and training courses provided could simply become “accomplishments,” without any indicators of changes in the management and functioning of the Iraqi police forces that can be attributed to this costly program.
So for this quarter, here is the Police Development Program advisors’ bottomless accomplishments, with more coming next quarter:
- 399 engagements with Baghdad-based advisors—up 105% from last quarter’s 195
- 95 engagements with Erbil-based advisors—down 41% from last quarter’s 160
- 23 engagements with Basrah-based advisors—down 34% from last quarter’s 35
As for indicators of changes, there are a few striking ones:
- U.S. advisors/trainers will now be officially working at the embassy compound.
- U.S. advisors/trainers will be working at the embassy compound, sans Iraqi trainees now allergic to PowerPoint presentations
- And U.S. advisors/trainers will be working at the embassy compound, period.