U.S. may scrap efforts to train Iraqi police units
BAGHDAD — In the face of spiraling costs and Iraqi officials who say they never wanted it in the first place, the State Department has slashed – and may jettison entirely by the end of the year – a multibillion-dollar police training program that was to have been the centerpiece of a hugely expanded civilian mission here.
What was originally envisioned as a training cadre of about 350 U.S. law enforcement officers was quickly scaled back to 190 and then to 100. The latest restructuring calls for 50 advisers, but most experts and even some State Department officials say even they may be withdrawn by the end of this year.
The training effort, which began in October and has already cost $500 million, was conceived of as the largest component of a mission billed as the most ambitious U.S. aid effort since the Marshall Plan. Instead, it has emerged as the latest high-profile example of the waning American influence here following the military withdrawal, and it reflects a costly miscalculation on the part of U.S. officials, who did not count on the Iraqi government to assert its sovereignty so aggressively.
“I think that with the departure of the military, the Iraqis decided to say, ‘OK, how large is the American presence here?“’ said James Jeffrey, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, in an interview. “How large should it be? How does this equate with our sovereignty? In various areas they obviously expressed some concerns.”
Last year, the State Department embarked on $343 million worth of construction projects around the country to upgrade facilities to accommodate the police training program, which was to have comprised hundreds of trainers and more than 1,000 support staff members working in three cities – Baghdad, Erbil and Basra – for five years. But like so much else in the nine years of war, occupation and reconstruction here, it has not gone as planned.
A lesson given by a U.S. police instructor to a class of Iraqi trainees neatly encapsulated the program’s failings. There are two clues that could indicate someone is planning a suicide attack, the instructor said: a large bank withdrawal and heavy drinking.
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