WASHINGTON, June 27 (Reuters) - The United States has spent more than $19 billion training hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and police officers, but they are still not ready to provide security, a congressional report said on Wednesday.
"The security forces are not capable of taking over security responsibility, as timelines for transition are repeatedly extended and violence has not significantly decreased across Iraq," the oversight panel of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee said in the report.
Signed by 16 lawmakers from both political parties, the report said the Pentagon must do a better job of reporting to Congress on progress in training but stopped short of making a judgment on whether the United States should continue the effort.
"This bipartisan report shows clearly that the president's plan to stand down our troops as the Iraqis stand up has been a failure to this point," said Rep. Martin Meehan, a Massachusetts Democrat and the panel's chairman.
The United States, which invaded Iraq in 2003, disbanded the Iraqi military and fired many police but lacked a plan for rebuilding the military or police forces, according to the document.
While some 350,000 Iraqi military and police personnel have been trained and equipped since then, the Pentagon is unable to say how well they can perform their missions, or even where many of them and their weapons are now, the report said.
There was strong evidence some of the trainees have committed sectarian violence and other illegal activity, the report said.
"Are we training the enemy?" Meehan asked at a press conference.
The panel's top Republican, Todd Akin of Missouri, said the United States had no choice but to continue the training program.
"Unless you basically give up on the whole project, the Iraqi security forces are just plain necessary because of the environment that exists within Iraq," Akin told reporters.
Asked for his opinion, Meehan said: "I have my doubts."
Meehan said one of the most troubling aspects of preparing the report was how the Defense Department "consistently tried to delay, stymie or hinder our investigation."
As the report was being printed this week, the Pentagon sent answers to 26 questions the panel had asked three months ago, he said.
- Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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