US auditors have concluded that more than US$200 million was wasted on a program to train Iraqi police that Baghdad says is neither needed nor wanted.
The Police Development Program (PDP) — which was drawn up to be the single largest US Department of State program in the world — was envisioned as a five-year, multibillion-dollar push to train security forces after the US military left in December last year. However, Iraqi political leaders, anxious to keep their distance from the Americans, were unenthusiastic.
A report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that the US embassy in Baghdad never got a written commitment from Iraq to participate. Now, facing what the report called Baghdad’s “disinterest” in the project, the embassy is gutting what was supposed to be the centerpiece of ongoing US training efforts in Iraq.
According to the report, the embassy plans to turn over the US$108 million Baghdad Police College Annex to Iraqis by the end of the year and will stop training at a US$98 million site at the US consulate in Basra. Additionally, the number of advisers has been cut by nearly 90 percent — from 350 to 36.
“A major lesson learned from Iraq is that host country buy-in to proposed programs is essential to the long-term success of relief and reconstruction activities. The PDP experience powerfully underscores that point,” auditors wrote in a 41-page summary of their inspection.
Auditors noted that it “has clearly been difficult” for US diplomats to secure a solid commitment from Iraq’s government to participate in the training program. Still, the report concluded, “the decision to embark on a major program absent Iraqi buy-in has been costly” and resulted in “a de facto waste.”
The findings call into question funding needs at the largest US embassy in the world, as the Obama administration prepares its new spending plan for the 2013 fiscal year that begins Oct 1. While auditors said it’s unknown how much the embassy in Baghdad is requesting, additional money for the police program “may not be needed.”
In a letter last Thursday responding to a draft of the report, acting US Assistant Secretary of State Carol Perez said the embassy would need an unspecified amount of additional funding this year to continue training Iraqi police into 2013. She disputed the finding that the funds have been wasted, noting Iraqis will continue to use the Baghdad Police College Annex for training. Moreover, Perez said, the embassy has been assured by Iraqi Principal Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Asadi that Iraq is committed to a streamlined version of the training program.