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Defence & Arms Last Updated: Apr 30th, 2007 - 13:10:18

Police Training Lagging
By Jenny Mandel, GovExec 27/4/07
Apr 30, 2007, 13:09

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Lawmakers seeking an accounting for problems in standing up an Iraqi police and security force were answered Wednesday with descriptions of poor contract oversight, excessive reliance on the military to teach civil skills, and the difficulty of tracking individuals who work for local-level Iraqi government organizations. At a hearing with two witness panels, members of the House Armed Services Subcommittee for Oversight and Investigations heard myriad explanations for reports that Iraqi security forces and police are unable to meet their growing responsibilities. "Reports from the field regarding the readiness and performance of the Iraqi Army have ... been mixed, and news regarding the Iraqi Police Services has often been highly discouraging," said Marty Meehan, D-Mass., chairman of the subcommittee, in opening remarks.


Citing information shared with lawmakers in closed briefings, as well as a months-long investigation of security force readiness, Meehan called on witnesses from inside and outside federal agencies to weigh in. Anne Patterson, assistant secretary of State with the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, told lawmakers that the scale of nation-building in Iraq far exceeded the agency's experience from similar missions in Kosovo, Bosnia and Haiti, and the agency often had trouble keeping up with staffing at both the Baghdad and Washington offices. The department currently faces challenges in a massive effort to review about $2.5 billion in Iraq-related contracts, she said, an endeavor expected to take 10 full-time employees about three years to complete.


Patterson said John Herbst, the coordinator for the State Department's Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization, was leading an initiative to build a civilian reserve corps that would help respond quickly to future contingencies with qualified personnel. Gary Motsek, assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense for program support, said the interagency program to train Iraqi security forces had suffered from poor planning. "We had a contractor plug that was going to go in there, and it was going to be kind of like magic," he said, noting that the agencies involved have generally been successful in learning from experience. "I do believe that the overall contingency contracting process has been successful," Motsek told lawmakers. "The contracts have been compliant with the law, and considering the large volume of contracts and contract actions, there have been few problems."


But Gerald Burke, a retired major with the Massachusetts State Police who worked on a needs assessment for the State and Justice departments before returning to Iraq as a security adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, said the American effort had little to show. "The police training program in Iraq has been a complete failure," Burke testified. He said soldiers detailed to train future police officers taught the tactical maneuvers and combat skills they knew best. "Issues such as the rule of law, human rights and treatment of suspects and prisoners, the concept of probable cause under Iraqi law and policing in a democracy received less emphasis," he said. Arguing that the term "Iraqi security forces" blends two distinct groups, Burke urged that American planners more explicitly address the distinct needs of Iraqi police and military training. Lawmakers also discussed problems with training by contractors.


Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, which represents private security contractors, said failings in that area were linked largely to problems with contract oversight. "The most obvious way to maximize value would be for both the Department of State and Department of Defense to improve oversight capacities and capabilities in general," Brooks testified, also calling for greater flexibility in contracts to address changing circumstances. In questioning about a police training center that opened in Jordan in 2003 and closed earlier this year, lawmakers expressed dismay that federal agencies have not tracked the 54,000 Iraqis who graduated from the program. Patterson acknowledged that candidates may not have been thoroughly screened to exclude insurgents, and that American officials have no way of knowing whether some graduates have since gone to work for militias or al Qaeda cells. "I would be astonished if it's not true that some of our graduates are out there today, attacking our forces," said Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J.


Patterson said officials are working on a tracking system for police coming out of new, Iraq-based training programs

Source:Ocnus.net 2007

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