Image: Iraqi police officer at checkpoint in Baghdad
Karim Kadim  /  AP
An Iraqi police officer mans a checkpoint in central Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday.
updated 10/24/2011 3:01:19 AM ET 2011-10-24T07:01:19

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 Monday 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 Oct. 1, the State Department took over the job of training Iraqi police from the Defense 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.

Story: Obama: All US troops out of Iraq by end of year

The audit also said 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.

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.

Story: Reaction on Iraq withdrawal: 'So many lives have been lost'

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. The official in the Iraqi Ministry of Interior (MOI) responsible for the ministry's day-to-day operations, Adnan al-Asadi, suggested to SIGIR that the U.S. should spend the money on something for the American people instead.

"What tangible benefit will Iraqis see from this police training program? With most of the money spent on lodging, security, support, all the MOI gets is a little expertise, and that is if the program materializes. It has yet to start," al-Asadi said.

The inspector general said the State Department did not fully cooperate with their audit.

"There were delays in gaining access to key officials and in obtaining documents. Moreover, the documents provided were incomplete," the audit read. One meeting in May was canceled an hour before it was to start because State Department officials needed to additional "Department guidance," SIGIR wrote.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad did not respond to a request for comment.

Video: Mixed emotions over Iraq announcement (on this page)

In a letter to SIGIR, the State Department said it "generally agrees" with the report's recommendations but defended its efforts.

State Department Assistant Secretary William Brownfield wrote that because they were unsure of whether they would get all the money they'd requested, they decided to start with a smaller number of trainers, and they could ramp up to 190 trainers if the money comes through.

Story: Clinton to Iran: Don't misread departure from Iraq

Brownfield also said an independent organization was supposed to do a detailed assessment of Iraqi law enforcement capabilities but did not have access to people on the Iraqi side to finish the assessment in time. He said it would be done by November.

The fact that Iraq still does not have a permanent in interior minister has hampered efforts to come up with an agreement on implementing the training program, Brownfield wrote. But he said the MOI was committed to the program. He also wrote that the State Department hoped to reduce costs in the coming years and to hire more Iraqi support employees.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Clinton: No one should doubt commitment to Iraq

  1. Closed captioning of: Clinton: No one should doubt commitment to Iraq

    >>> the president suffered a setback on his jobs bill, he argued that his dual foreign policy milestones in iraq and libya are, quote, powerful reminders of how we have renewed american leadership in the world. a few hours ago i sat down with the chief foreign policy adviser, the secretary of state hillary clinton , who is wrapping up a week-long overseas trip to countries such as libya, pakistan, afghanistan, and uzbekistan. secretary clinton, welcome back to "meet the press." i want to start with iraq and the president's decision about withdrawal. as you know, republicans have already piled on, suggesting that the prospect of sectarian violence once u.s. troops leave is real. among them mitt romney saying that it unnecessarily endangers the success that the united states has had in iraq by with drawing all the forces by the end of the year. how much of a concern is it to you that we face the prospect of civil war once u.s. troops come out?

    >> you know, david , i think that iraq is a very new democracy, of course, but it has made tremendous strides in taking care of its own security. and let's put this into some context here. president obama has said from the beginning that combat troops would leave by the end of this year. that should not surprise anyone. but, it's equally important to remember that this deadline was set by the bush administration . so, it's been a bipartisan commitment, but it was on president obama 's watch to show the leadership to be able to fulfill that commitment. so, we are now going to have a security relationship with iraq for training and support of their military, similar to what we have around the world, from jordan to colombia. we will have military trainers and support personnel on the ground at embassy baghdad. we will be training iraqis on using the military equipment that they are buying from the united states . and we think that this is the kind of mature relationship that is very common. so, i believe that we are looking to fulfill what it is that the iraqis requested, and that we're prepared to provide.

    >> secretary clinton, the question is whether you think this criticism is well-founded or not. do we not endanger recent success in iraq by not having any residual force? is there not a legitimate prospect of civil war , which many people fear?

    >> well, honestly, i think that they should have raised those issues when president bush agreed to the agreement to withdraw troops by the end of this year. i feel like this is a debate that is looking backwards instead of forwards. now, are the iraqis all going to get along with each other for the foreseeable future? well, let's find out. we know that there will be continuing stresses and threats, as we see in many of the countries that we work. we had a support and training mission in colombia over many years, when they were facing tremendous threats from insurgent groups. we know that the violence is not going to automatically end. but president obama has shown great leadership in navigating to this point, fulfilling his promise, meeting the obligations that were entered into before he ever came into office. we are providing a support and training mission. we will be there, on the ground, working with the iraqis . and i just want to add, david , that no one should miscalculate america 's resolve and commitment to helping support the iraqi democracy . we have paid too high a price to give the iraqis this chance. and i hope that iran and no one else miscalculates that.

    >> well, and i want to just underline that. there's a feeling that iran could try to push iraq around, particularly in the shia part of the southern part of iraq . are you suggesting that if iran were to try to take advantage at this moment, the u.s. would still have a military commitment, the message to iran being what?

    >> well, i think iran should look at the region. we may not be leaving military bases in iraq , but we have bases elsewhere. we have support and training assets elsewhere. we have a nato ally in turkey. you know, the united states is very present in the region. but let's also admit that iran has influence in iraq . always has, always will. but the iraqis themselves are a very proud people. they are proud of their nation. they're proud of their own future. prospects. so i don't think anyone should be mistaken about america 's commitment to the new democracy in iraq that we have sacrificed so much to help them achieve.

    >> final point on iraq . this was cast as the president talked about this as a victory for the united states , as we withdraw troops. looking back now, as this war is coming to an end, you stand by your vote authorizing military force in iraq as a senator?

    >> you know, david , i honestly don't think this is a time to be looking back. i think it's a time to be looking forward . i will leave it to history debate and argue over the merits and demerits of what the united states did over the last decade. but the fact is that iraq is now a sovereign nation with democratically elected leadership, with a government that reflects the interests of different groups of iraqis , and it is very much in america 's interest going forward to make sure that this new democracy flourishes, and we will do everything we can to help make that a fact.

    >> was the war worth it?

    >> we're going to have to wait a long time for the iraqis themselves to answer that question. freedom, democracy, the opportunities that people now have that were never available under the dictatorships of tyrants like saddam hussein , or gadhafi, is certainly a new world that everyone finds themselves in. but you know, i'm proud that the united states has stood on the side of those fundamental freedoms that we hold dear.


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