Audit shows more problems with Iraqi security forces

In a report, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction highlights continuing difficulties accounting for Iraqi forces.

By Alex Koppelman

Published April 25, 2008 8:18PM (EDT)

Just one day after we found out that the war in Iraq has a reached a new height of unpopularity, there's more bad news out of the country -- an audit report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction shows "continuing uncertainties about the true number of assigned and trained Iraqi personnel who are present for duty at any one time" and says, "A substantial number of personnel still on the payroll are not available for duty for various reasons, such as being on-leave, absent without leave, injured, or killed."

The audit (a PDF of it can be found here) contains other bad news, including these points from a summary of the results:

  • The shortage of officers and noncommissioned officers in the Iraqi security forces remains a significant long-term shortfall that could take a decade to address.
  • There is a recognized need for additional Iraqi security forces by 2010 to field a counterinsurgency force capable of protecting the country against internal threats and insurgency.
  • Iraqi forces still rely on substantial logistical support of coalition forces.

One thing that wasn't a subject of the report was a major problem the Iraqis face beyond just numbers: sectarianism. In an interview I conducted with him for Salon last year, journalist Martin Smith, maker of a PBS documentary called "Gangs of Iraq," told me:

We're not training the Mahdi Army by intent, but we're providing training for people who may take our training program and then go join the militias ... As early as August '04, there are photographs of uniformed Iraqi police celebrating with the Mahdi Army after a battle in Najaf ... In the case of the police force after the January 2005 elections, there were a number of firings of Sunni leaders in the Ministry of the Interior, and Badr Corps [the militia unit of the SCIRI, a Shiite political party] people were brought into leadership positions, and there was a definite sectarian taint for many police units. Whole units were brought in intact from the Badr militia, according to some accounts that we were told ... Trying to get people to form a national police force in the middle of a civil war is a very difficult, if not impossible, task. It's like going into Kentucky during our Civil War and getting people from the North and the South. If you put them in a unit together, you expect them to fight together in the interests of what?

According to the audit report, since 2003 Congress has appropriated more than $20 billion for the development of Iraqi security forces.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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