Iraq’s army, despite measurable progress, will be unable to take over internal security from U.S. forces in the next 12 to 18 months and “cannot yet meaningfully contribute to denying terrorists safe haven,” according to a report on the Iraqi security forces published today.
The report, prepared by a commission of retired senior U.S. military officers, describes the 25,000-member Iraqi national police force and the Interior Ministry, which controls it, as riddled with sectarianism and corruption. The ministry, it says, is “dysfunctional” and is “a ministry in name only.” The commission recommended that the national police force be disbanded.
The assessment by the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq is one of several independent progress reports ordered by Congress for delivery before the administration presents its own scorecard next week. Members of the 20-member group, headed by retired Marine Gen. James Jones, traveled throughout Iraq over the summer and met with hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi officials as well as leading nongovernmental experts on the Iraqi forces. Jones will present the 152-page document, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, in testimony today before the Senate and House Armed Services committees.
As he ended a year in charge of training the Iraqi security forces in 2005, then-Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus said that Iraq’s military had made “enormous progress” and that its readiness to take over from U.S. forces was growing “with each passing week.” President Bush said of the Iraqi forces, “As they stand up, we’ll stand down.”
The report expresses concern about what it calls the massive U.S. military logistical “footprint” in Iraq and its effect on perceptions and problems. “The unintended message conveyed is one of ‘permanence,’ an occupying force, as it were,” the report says. It recommends reconsideration of “efficiency, necessity . . . and cost” and calls for “significant reductions, consolidations and realignments” of U.S. forces.
All of Iraq’s 18 provinces should be transferred to government control, the report says — only seven currently have that status — and a formal status-of-forces agreement should be pursued with the Iraqi government. “We believe that all [U.S.] bases in Iraq should demonstrate evidence of Iraqi sovereignty,” including flying the Iraqi flag, the report says. “There is a fine line,” it says, “between assistance and dependence.”