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Pentagon Reports on Iraq's Military Are Suspect, Audit Says
Bloomberg
By Tony Capaccio
April 25, 2008

April 25 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. public and lawmakers should be skeptical of the Pentagon's quarterly reports on Iraq's progress toward building a viable military and police force, according to a new audit.

The reports from the Defense Department are based on data supplied by the Iraqi government that hasn't been fully vetted by the U.S. military and is unreliable, according to the Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen.

There are uncertainties," for example, about the true number" of Iraqi military and police personnel on active duty or in training, Bowen wrote. A substantial number of personnel still on the payroll are not available for duty for various reasons, such as being on leave, absent without leave, injured or killed," he said.

Congress since 2003 has approved about $20.4 billion for training Iraqi Security Forces. Their readiness to take over missions from the U.S. affects the pace of U.S. withdrawals beyond the five combat brigades to be removed by July under the plan endorsed this month by President George W. Bush.

An analysis of Iraq's data suggests a continuing need for caution in relying on the accuracy and usefulness of the numbers," Bowen wrote in the 21-page audit released today.

The data is compiled by Iraqi ministries, and the Pentagon makes some effort to determine the reliability" before it is published in congressionally mandated quarterly reports. However, as the Iraqi government assumes greater control over the forces, U.S. officials envision they will have less visibility over data reliability," the audit said.

U.S. Army Doesn't Disagree

Army Colonel Michael Fuller, a top aide to the commander in charge of training Iraq's forces, said in written comments in the report that the command didn't disagree with most of the audit findings.

Bowen's report highlighted two areas of concern that he said must be considered in any plan for further U.S. withdrawals: the shortage of officers and sergeants within Iraq's military and a lingering weakness in its ability to support combat operations without major U.S. assistance.

An effective military force requires leadership from a well-trained and balanced officer and non-commissioned officer corps," Bowen wrote.

The Pentagon's last three quarterly reports identified the officer shortages and pointed to an inevitable conclusion: a shortage of leadership at all operational levels will constrain the ISF's ability to secure Iraq without coalition support," Bowen wrote.

Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Todd Vician, a Defense Department spokesman, said the department always seeks to improve the information it provides Congress.

To that end, we anxiously await any suggestions the Special Inspector offers in his final report," Vician said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio at at acapaccio@bloomnberg.net

Last Updated: April 25, 2008 00:01 EDT

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