Worse than that, it’s $19 billion to arm and train our enemies.
The United States has invested $19 billion to train and equip nearly 350,000 Iraqi soldiers and police since toppling Saddam Hussein, but the ability of those forces to provide security remains in doubt, according to the findings of a bipartisan congressional investigation to be released today.
As a result, President Bush’s pledge to have U.S. troops “stand down” as Iraqi forces “stand up” remains unfulfilled. Instead, U.S. troop numbers and operations have escalated in recent months, and the overall level of violence has not decreased.
The Pentagon “cannot report in detail how many of the 346,500 Iraqi military and police personnel that the coalition trained are operational today,” according to the 250-page report. Details of the document were provided to The Washington Post by congressional staff members.
“We have no idea what our $19 billion has gotten us,” said Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.), chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on oversight and investigations, noting that the United States investment represents $55,000 per Iraqi recruit.
“The DOD can’t tell us how well the Iraqis perform their missions or even plan them,” he said in an interview. “The police are in particularly bad shape, although they are critical to counterinsurgency.”
The lack of transparency is especially worrisome, the report said, because of the possibility that Iraqi forces trained and equipped by the United States have joined the insurgency or sectarian militias.
“This report details the complete lack of understanding of who we have trained and what happens to them after we train them,” Meehan said. “Many of the forces we have trained are unaccounted for, and others are on the rolls but haven’t been vetted,” he said, adding that forces “could actually be fighting against us.”
The subcommittee’s report found “strong evidence” that some Iraqi forces trained by the U.S.-led military coalition are involved in sectarian violence and other illegal activities. In addition, the Pentagon “cannot account for whether coalition-issued weapons have been stolen or turned against U.S. forces,” the report said.
The report criticized as “premature and ill-advised” the U.S. decision to transfer responsibility for vetting the Iraqi police to the national government early this year, after only a year of focused effort in generating police forces, saying that police remain ineffective and their organization is “riddled with corruption and sectarian influence.” Tens of thousands of police have been hired outside of the U.S.-led training program, it said.
The Iraqi ministries of defense and the interior are incapable of “accounting for, supporting, or fully controlling their forces in the field,” or even executing their own budgets, the investigation found. In addition, the ministries lack critical intelligence and logistics systems that would help in planning independent operations.