Condoleezza Rice’s State Department is screwing the pooch when it comes to bringing order to the chaos that is the Iraqi Defense and Interior Ministries, so the Pentagon is taking over.
The U.S. military plans to take over responsibility from the State Department for providing assistance to Iraq’s Defense and Interior ministries, following a determination that greater resources and technical expertise are needed.
Getting the ministries to exercise effective control over Iraq’s fledgling security forces remains key to enabling those forces to operate on their own and allow the withdrawal of U.S. troops. But while the number of Iraqi forces has grown steadily to more than 192,000, the ministries have yet to put in place many of the budgeting, contracting, personnel management and other systems necessary to administer the country’s military and police units, U.S. military officers and diplomats said.
“Nobody would disagree with the characterization that ministerial development has lagged force generation,” said Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who recently assumed command of the U.S. effort to train Iraq’s security forces.
Responsibility for the ministries has rested with the State Department’s Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, while the Pentagon has overseen training of Iraq’s fielded forces. This division of tasks was intended to reinforce the principle of civilian control of the security services, according to officials here, but it has led to some gaps.
The State Department office has struggled to fill all the adviser slots allotted to it, especially at the Interior Ministry, where at least 10 of 51 positions remain vacant. Several U.S. military officers also said that a number of advisers had tended to play only limited roles, helping Iraqi authorities to identify problems but not to solve them.
In addition, charges of corruption and fraud have recently swirled around Iraq’s Defense Ministry, with an audit indicating that up to $1 billion was missing or unaccounted for under the interim government that served from June 2004 until this spring.