Last week, General Casey said it would be 12-18 months before the Iraqi security forces would be able to take over from us. This week, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that it would be only six months if the Americans focused not on the Shiite militias (who are his base of support), but rather on the Sunni insurgency and Al Qaeda.
According to our troops on the ground, they are both wrong. Tuesday’s Post carries a Page One story reporting the views of our troops, who say that the Iraqi police are infiltrated with militias, and that it will be not months, not years, but decades before Iraqi forces can function effectively as a security force free from militia influence, if then.
"I wouldn't let half of them feed my dog," 1st Lt. Floyd D. Estes Jr., a former head of the police transition team, said of the Iraqi police. "I just don't trust them."
Jon Moore, the deputy team chief, said: "We don't know who the hell we're teaching: Are they police or are they militia?"
The difficulty of eliminating corruption and militias from the Iraqi police forces can be exasperating for the American soldiers who risk their lives day after day to train them. "We can keep getting in our Humvees every day, but nothing is going to work unless the politicians do their job and move against the militias," Moore said.
Except the Shiite politicians won’t move against the Shiite militias, who are their base of support and are run by either Muqtada al-Sadr or pro-Iranian parties inside Iraq. And the only native force that could have dealt with the militias, the Iraqi Army, was disbanded by Paul Bremer and Donald Rumsfeld, and can only be put back together with a concerted effort by the Americans to fund and equip a new Sunni-led army that could take over security in the central Sunni region of the country outside of Baghdad. Yet the Bush Administration is failing at doing this.
Sitting in the battalion's war room with four other members of his team, Moore estimated it would take 30 to 40 years before the Iraqi police could function properly, perhaps longer if the militia infiltration and corruption continue to increase. His colleagues nodded.
"It's very, very slow-moving," Estes said.
"No," said Sgt. 1st Class William T. King Jr., another member of the team. "It's moving in reverse."
Worse yet, the Iraqis are spending their own money on salaries and administrative overhead, rather than on reconstruction projects. As a result, the Iraqis are months away, if at all, from being ready to run their own reconstruction.
Ten months into a year-long effort to transfer control of Iraq's reconstruction to the Iraqis, federal auditors say, the government there is spending very little of its own money on projects, while the process for handing off U.S.-funded work "appears to have broken down," according to findings released yesterday.
The fledgling Iraqi government, in power since May, has about $6 billion this year to devote to major rebuilding projects, representing about 20 percent of its overall budget. But auditors with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that beyond paying employee salaries and administrative expenses, only a small amount of money is being spent on actual work.
The two developments are the outcomes from a failed occupation that can be laid at the feet of Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush. We cannot continue our current “treading water” policy.
OK, it’s your turn.