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Democrats, Republicans join ranks to criticize State Department program to train Iraqi police
WASHINGTON (AP) ' Democrats and Republicans joined Wednesday to criticize harshly a State Department program for continued training of Iraq's police force, calling the nearly $900 million set aside in the 2012 budget a waste of money.
Lawmakers at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing cited an October report from the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction that said the training program lacked focus, could become a "bottomless pit" for U.S. dollars and may not even be wanted by the Iraqis.
That audit also found that only about 12 percent of the money actually will go to helping the Iraqi police. It said most of the dollars will go for security and other items such as living quarters for trainers.
Since 2003, the U.S. has spent nearly $8 billion training Iraqi police. The Defense Department has managed the program since 2004. After a nearly two-year transition phase, the State Department took over the effort on Oct. 1, 2011. As U.S. military forces withdraw from Iraq, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will handle most of the responsibility for training Iraqi security forces.
Brooke Darby, deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, told the subcommittee that the department has put measures in place to ensure U.S. money is accounted for properly.
"We will be monitoring it very closely to make sure that we do get results," she said. "Iraq needs our help to modernize and become a respected, effective police force."
Subcommittee members seized on a statement in the inspector general's report from Adnan al-Asadi, who oversees daily operations at the Iraq Ministry of Interior, or MOI. He indicated the U.S. should spend the money on the American people instead.
"What tangible benefit will Iraqis see from this police training program? With most of the money spent on lodging, security, support, all the MOI gets is a little expertise, and that is if the program materializes. It has yet to start," al-Asadi said, according to the report.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said the U.S. experience in Iraq has been a waste of American lives and money.
"Whatever we are spending now should be terminated," Rohrabacher said. "Who cares about whether their police are good or not? Let them determine whether their police are good or not, and let them spend the money and make the commitment to do that themselves."
Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., asked Darby when the Iraqi police would be able to operate without U.S. support. "I wish I could answer that question," she said.
"Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?" Ackerman said.
House Foreign Affairs Committee: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/index.asp