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No Solid Stats On Iraq Security

many of the Iraqi security forces personnel simply are not showing up to work, while continuing to draw pay. According to Olga Oliker's, a researcher for RAND, testimony, the Ministry of Finance disburses a lump sum to local officials to distribute. While the manual payroll rosters may give some indication of who is getting paid, it does not show who is actually working, especially since payments are made in cash. According to the Defense Department: "(Multi-national Security Transition Command-Iraq) estimates that, on an average day, less than 70 percent of MOI personnel are present for duty. This is a combination of authorized absences (leave, school, sickness) and unauthorized absences."
by Kristin Billera
UPI Correspondent
Washington (UPI) April 11, 2007
The size, strength and capability of Iraqi security forces remain an enigma, with neither the Pentagon nor the Iraqi government able to offer any solid information. That much was clear from a panel of experts who testified before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations about the current state of Iraq's security forces.

Olga Oliker, a researcher for the RAND, a non-profit research organization, said there were no clear-cut numbers available about the size of Iraq's security forces. The Defense Department's numbers only take into consideration the Iraqis who have been coalition-trained.

According to a Pentagon report in March, about 192,300 personnel have been trained for the Ministry of the Interior, including the police, the national police, border enforcement, dignitary protection and forensics. About 136,400 personnel have been trained for the Ministry of Defense for the army, support forces, special operations, and a small air force and navy.

"These are the numbers of people who have gone through training in an organized school with oversight by the MOI, MOD and Coalition," said a military source familiar with the training of the Iraqi security forces as well as their personnel system. "This is not the number of Security Forces on the street -- this number is lower because of KIA, WIA and retire, AWOL, 'I quit,' et cetera."

Also not included in these figures are forces that have not been trained by the coalition, other uniformed, armed personnel of the government such as Facilities Protection Personnel, whose primary job is to guard infrastructure, or the agents of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service and the Ministry of State for National Security Affairs.

Another problem is that many of the Iraqi security forces personnel simply are not showing up to work, while continuing to draw pay. According to Oliker's testimony, the Ministry of Finance disburses a lump sum to local officials to distribute. While the manual payroll rosters may give some indication of who is getting paid, it does not show who is actually working, especially since payments are made in cash.

According to the Defense Department: "(Multi-national Security Transition Command-Iraq) estimates that, on an average day, less than 70 percent of MOI personnel are present for duty. This is a combination of authorized absences (leave, school, sickness) and unauthorized absences."

Not only is there lack of information on personnel numbers, but there is limited information on weapons and equipment and overall capability of the Iraqi security forces. Oliker said that, depending upon when they signed up and who signed them up, there may be a discrepancy in the quality of training that personnel received.

Iraqi security forces are also often not well-equipped, according to House testimony from Oliker and Anthony Cordesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which conducts research and helps develop policy initiatives. "It isn't just manpower that's the problem, we don't know where the equipment weaponry is and the quality of it," Cordesman said.

Oliker acknowledges that this could be due to apprehensiveness about giving the Iraqis highly efficient weapons. "There are concerns about giving them weapons that are terribly capable," Oliker said. They often are less well armed than coalition forces, as well as less well armed than the insurgency that they are fighting.

Oliker said that numbers are not the only information that the Defense Department and Iraqi government need to collect. "Just trusting if things are going well isn't sufficient even if they are," she said. "You need to know what you need to accomplish. It's not just a matter of getting X number of people armed and ready -- you need to assess their capability to do that. Having X number of people tells you very little in itself."

According to the unidentified military official, progress is being made in ensuring that the Iraqi army is capable of handing itself. "Nine of the 10 Iraqi Army divisions, 31 brigades, and 94 battalions are in the lead in operations," he said. "In addition, all Iraqi security forces units are involved in operations. One of the divisions is operating independently of coalition support; five brigades are, too. So, clearly, progress towards independence is still under way."

Cordesman, however, has said these figures can be misleading.

"This is an exercise in the cosmetic," he said, "You transfer the formal responsibly to the commander. It doesn't mean they're in the lead, or can perform the mission or perform without massive amounts of combat support. It is a thoroughly meaningless measure."

A House Appropriations Committee report explaining its decisions about emergency supplemental spending for the 2007 fiscal year cites lack of information about Iraq's security forces as the reason that Congress is reluctant to fund them. The report recommends that the Defense Department provide Congress's defense committees with an adequate report of the readiness of each individual unit.

The Iraqi government will be implementing an electronic human resources system, which will help to track its security personnel. However, according to the Defense Department report, it is estimated that the system will not be fully functional for more than year.

Source: United Press International

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