Home inContext End of an Era: U.S. Program to Train Iraqi Security Canceled

End of an Era: U.S. Program to Train Iraqi Security Canceled

Zachary Fisher

According to an American audit released Monday, the U.S. “wasted” more than $200 million on a program to train Iraqi police that will now be canceled. The Police Development Program (PDP) was envisioned as a five-year multi-billion dollar interim program in which security forces were to be trained in order to maintain stability in post-war Iraq. Baghdad, however, never formally committed to it and now, facing its reported “disinterest”, the U.S. is pulling the plug on what was to be the centerpiece of U.S. training efforts.

The PDP consisted of the $108 million Baghdad Police College Annex and a $98 million site at the U.S. consulate; the former will be turned over to the Iraqis by year’s end. From its original 350 advisers, the program is left with 36, many of whom will be based in the Kurdish region, which embraced the police training program. Cutting the PDP ends an era marked by heavy American investment into Iraqi security forces. Since 2003, the U.S. has spent $8 billion training and equipping Iraqi policemen, which some estimates indicate has allowed Iraqi police forces to grow by a factor of more than 10.

The Iraqi flag waves while federal police parade in Baghdad. (Photo: AP)

With the program’s demise, there is good reason to fear for Iraq’s stability. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has revived and thrived in the months since the American withdrawal, recently threatening to attack remaining U.S. targets and launching a violent campaign to return to old strongholds. On Sunday, a week following the campaign’s launch, seven Iraqi policemen were killed by two bombs and a drive-by shooting in Fallujah, a former al-Qaeda stronghold. Authorities suggested that the attack signaled al-Qaeda’s resurgence. The group is also the suspected perpetrator of 29 separate bombing and shooting attacks launched in 19 Iraqi cities on July 23. 113 died that day, making it Iraq’s deadliest day in over two years. With bomb blasts the norm in recent weeks, many fear that the country is nearing sectarian civil war possibly hastened by the timing of the American exit and continued, violent incitement by al-Qaeda.

The PDP’s failure and other American shortcomings resulting from what some have termed a premature withdrawal from Iraq threaten the future stability and security of the Arab state. Given Iraq’s regional importance, at a time when all eyes are focused on Syrian internal violence, more diplomatic focus should be shifted eastward.