Saturday, May 20, 2006

Law and Disorder

NYT: Misjudgments Marred U.S. Plans for Iraqi Police

Like so much that has defined the course of the war, the realities on the ground in Iraq did not match the planning in Washington. An examination of the American effort to train a police force in Iraq, drawn from interviews with several dozen American and Iraqi officials, internal police reports and visits to Iraqi police stations and training camps, reveals a cascading series of misjudgments by White House and Pentagon officials, who repeatedly underestimated the role the United States would need to play in rebuilding the police and generally maintaining order.

Before the war, the Bush administration dismissed as unnecessary a plan backed by the Justice Department to rebuild the police force by deploying thousands of American civilian trainers. Current and former administration officials said they were relying on a Central Intelligence Agency assessment that said the Iraqi police were well trained. The C.I.A. said its assessment conveyed nothing of the sort.

After Baghdad fell, when the majority of Iraqi police officers abandoned their posts, a second proposal by a Justice Department team calling for 6,600 police trainers was reduced to 1,500, and then never carried out. During the first eight months of the occupation — as crime soared and the insurgency took hold — the United States deployed 50 police advisers in Iraq.


"Looking back, I really don't know what their plan was," Mr. Kerik said. With no experience in Iraq, and little time to get ready, he said he prepared for his job in part by watching A&E Network documentaries on Saddam Hussein.


DynCorp officials said they fired the employees involved in the fuel theft and reimbursed the government, and put the controls in place. They said the company kept close watch on ammunition.

"We'd be very surprised if any of the U.S. officers we hired to train Iraqis are involved in anything like this," said Greg Lagana, a company spokesman. "If there is an investigation, we'll cooperate vigorously."

Richard Cashon, a DynCorp vice president, said the company billed the government about $50 million a month for its police trainers, including their $134,000-a-year salaries as well as security and other operating costs.

DynCorp officials, who noted that they never received field reports from their trainers, said they were not to blame for the inadequacies in police training.

"We are not judged on the success or failure of the program as they established it," Mr. Cashon said. "We are judged on our ability to provide qualified personnel."


By December 2004, there were also signs that the police were being drawn into the evolving sectarian battles. Senior officers in the police department in the southern city of Basra were implicated in the killings of 10 members of the Baath Party, and of a mother and daughter accused of prostitution, according to a State Department report.

By then there was a growing sense among American officials that the civilian training program was not working, and the United States military came up with its own plan. It was the Americans' third strategy for training the Iraqi police, and it would run into the worst problems of all. Basra was just the beginning.

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