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US squanders $200m on ‘useless’ Iraq police program

US squanders $200m on ‘useless’ Iraq police program
The US spent over $200m on a police training program in Iraq – the largest in the world – that was never approved by authorities, according to a govt audit. Iraq’s Interior Ministry reportedly branded the initiative “useless” and “unnecessary.”

The report, published on Monday by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, revealed that Baghdad never gave formal written authorization for the program. According to the audit, the US investment in the Police Department Program (PDP) amounts to a “de facto” waste of funds.

The Department of Defense (DoD) contributed an estimated $108 million to the construction of training and housing facilities at the US-controlled Baghdad Police College Annex (BPCA). Additionally, the DoD poured $98 million into constructing the Basra Consulate for the training of Iraqi security forces.

The training facility at BPCA will be turned over to Iraqi control at the end of this year, while training will be discontinued at the Basra Consulate.

“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,” the audit says, adding that the decision to pursue the initiative without a written commitment from the Interior Ministry was “costly.”

Assistant Secretary of State Carol Z. Perez disputed the audit, claiming the funds had not been wasted since training was still being conducted at the BCPA. She stressed that the Interior Ministry had agreed to a scaled-down version of the program.

Stephanie Sanok, expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the program was “doomed from the beginning,” having worked at the US embassy in Baghdad from 2009 to 2010.

“This was such an expensive program, and there was plenty of time to get the Iraqi government to help shape it in such a way that they could eventually take it over. But we never got that buy-in,” she said.

The PDP was envisioned as a five-year, multimillion-dollar initiative aimed at training Iraqi security forces following the US withdrawal last December. In the wake of the 2003 invasion and occupation, the US spent roughly $8 billion to train and equip Iraq’s military.

Michael Maloof, who formerly worked at the Pentagon's Technology Security Operations, says the PDP demonstrates how the US has gone to great lengths to justify its continued presence in Iraq.

“Inevitably they [Baghdad] could get similar training elsewhere if they needed that kind of training. The United States is trying to justify in many respects maintaining a presence in Iraq, because it was told so abruptly that it had to leave,” Maloof said.

"I think they [Washington] are trying to come up with creative programs that keep the presence of the United States in the area and, frankly, Iraq doesn’t want it,” he continued.

Some US officials argue that al-Qaida has taken advantage of the US troop withdrawal to step up their operations in Iraq. A wave of insurgent attacks swept the country last Monday, with strikes in multiple locations resulting in over 100 deaths. Despite their efforts, the US failed to flush out al-Qaida insurgent groups that became entrenched across Iraq following the invasion.

The US plans to cut personnel at its largest CIA station in Baghdad by 40 percent and deploy them to conflict zones in other strategically important Middle Eastern regions.This announcement comes amid mounting concerns over the resurgent threat of al-Qaida in Iraq. US intelligence estimates that the number of insurgent attacks per month in Iraq has risen to 25, from 19 last year.

Washington maintains that al-Qaida in Iraq does not constitute a growing threat to operations in the country.