The American-led occupation authority governing Iraq, with less than two months before it is to transfer limited authority to an interim Iraqi government, is rushing to hire a contractor to set up a new facility to begin training Iraqi police in counterterrorism and special operations by the end of this week.
The first 225 students would begin classes by Friday, according to a bid proposal dated April 29.
"There is an immediate requirement to train 225 members of the police service within the next 120 days on techniques of counterterrorism, crisis response team techniques, explosive ordnance disposal and a variety of anti-terrorism" roles, the proposal said. "Speed of delivery is essential for this contract."
One measure of the dangerous atmosphere in which the occupation authority is pushing the plan is that the contractor would not only supply about 50 instructors in special and counterterrorist police operations, but also provide "force protection" for the facility itself, including 150 security guards for 24-hour protection.
The contractor "is responsible for the recruiting, training and payment of the force protection staffing to be established before the arrival of students and faculty," the proposal says. The contractor will be responsible for providing weapons, ammunition and patrol vehicles for the facility's own protection, while the authority will provide weapons for student training.
According to a report sent to Congress last month by the authority's inspector general, the new police training facility is only one element of a $93 million spending increase for security. Other funds would expand the number of trainers at an academy in Jordan where senior Iraqi police officials would be schooled. Another increase would pay for as many as 200 U.S. police trainers to work in the field in Iraq.
While the need for more Iraqi police on the streets is obvious in the face of almost daily bombings, the inspector general's report said that 54,500 of the proposed 75,000 members of the Iraqi Police Service on a U.S. government payroll remain untrained. Only 13,500 Iraqi police on duty have completed all or most of their training, and another 3,000 are currently being trained, according to the report.
It also said fewer than 10,000 will complete training this year.
In another sign of the rush to get police on the streets, the occupation authority on May 3 solicited contractors to provide uniform shirts, pants, socks, shoes and hats for 15,000 students at the Baghdad Police Academy within four days, even though the biggest incoming class will have only 1,500 students.
The inspector general's report added that 13,000 of the on-duty police had served under Saddam Hussein's government and have since taken a three-week authority-sponsored program that "emphasizes democratic policing and human rights-related skills rather than basic training."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this week told a Pentagon town hall meeting that about 206,000 Iraqis have been recruited to provide security, "and we are heading to 265,000." The report last month, however, noted that as of mid-March, little more than half of those cited by Rumsfeld were on duty and fully qualified. And more than half of those, 74,000, were in the lowest security category, the Facilities Protection Service that guards Iraqi ministry buildings.
The Iraqi Armed Forces, which is programmed to have 40,000 members, had only 3,005 on duty and fully qualified as of March 15, with an additional 1,709 in training, the report found.
Setting up the new counterterrorism training facility is only one of several security-related steps that L. Paul Bremer, administrator of the occupation authority, is taking as the time approaches for the turnover of limited authority to the proposed new Iraqi government.
The authority recently boosted funding for the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity, which the United States established to be an independent body to detect waste, fraud and abuse in any future Baghdad government. The commission was allocated an additional $5 million "to obtain state-of-the-art surveillance equipment looking into the most sensitive criminal/anti-corruption allegations," and another $20 million to renovate a building to house the surveillance activity, the report said. Another $5 million had been drawn from "democracy building activities" for the State Department to manage a program to train Iraqi investigators assigned to the Commission on Public Integrity.
The commission's charter, signed by Bremer in January, calls for it to investigate corruption and refer the results to either the ministry involved or to a judge.