Iraqis Authorize Big Jump in Forces

[Defense Dept. Report to Congress: 'Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,' December 2007]
Fine Print: Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq
By Walter Pincus
Monday, December 31, 2007

Buried in the latest Defense Department quarterly report on Iraq is the disclosure that the Baghdad government is now responsible for setting the size of its security forces, and that it has authorized a level of 550,000 military and police forces -- an increase of more than 40 percent over the level that the U.S.-led coalition reported just three months ago.

"While previous reports have listed numbers authorized by the Coalition and provided estimates of numbers on the payroll, the GoI [Government of Iraq] is now responsible for determining requirements and counting personnel," the Pentagon reported this month. "Therefore, reporting will now reflect GoI statistics."

The new numbers show a jump of more than 150,000 from three months ago, when the coalition put the previously authorized number of military and police at 389,000. According to the Pentagon report, that jump under the Iraqi statistics mainly represents police who "have never been trained, as rapid hiring over the past two years outstripped academy training capacity."

Eight Iraqi provinces have requested more than 45,000 new police slots; the Ministry of Interior has approved hiring 12,000, with orders pending for the rest. But, as the Pentagon report notes, "police force expansions continue on an un-programmed basis" and "increases in provincial police authorizations occur in an ad-hoc fashion."

The Pentagon noted that the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police force, not only has recruiting and hiring problems but also does not know "how many of the approximately 376,346 employees on the payroll are regularly reporting for duty."

Unlike the coalition, the Iraqi defense and interior ministries use "the number of authorized and assigned personnel" rather than the number trained as a measure of development of their security forces, the Pentagon reported. At the same time, the Pentagon warned that the two Iraqi ministries "do not accurately track which of those personnel who have been trained as part of U.S.-funded programs are still on the force and which are no longer on the force as a result of being killed in action or leaving for other reasons."

For example, the Pentagon reports that the annual attrition rate for the approximately 255,000-person Iraqi Police Service is running at about 17 percent. The Iraqi army, with an authorized ground force of about 186,000, also had an attrition rate of 17 percent, "in part due to a casualty rate two to three times higher than that of Coalition forces," according to the Pentagon report. But it notes that on average about 2,000 soldiers each week go absent without official leave, and that this year about 21,000 were dropped from the rolls for desertion or for going AWOL.

In the Ministry of Interior, "corruption and sectarian behavior continue to be evident," the Pentagon concludes. However, internal investigations are "increasingly aggressive . . . to uncover perpetrators and reduce their impact." Thirty brigadier generals have been arrested, fired or forced into retirement; "several thousand personnel fired, 700 of whom were fired based on criminal records information"; and 195 police "fired for militia activity and involvement in corruption."

As a result of the firings, the report noted, the Interior Ministry's head of internal affairs and his family received death threats.

The Pentagon expects the security forces to continue growing under the planning of the central government in Baghdad, reaching "between 601,000 and 646,000 by 2010." Police forces would reach near 350,000 and the military would expand to about 280,000, with 260,000 of those in the army. At their peak, Saddam Hussein's military and security forces were estimated to have totaled about 550,000.

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