- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2006

The troop training program that the United States began in 2003 to protect Iraq’s oil and electrical lines is a failure and the Bush administration has dispatched a team to Baghdad to draft a new strategy, according to an inspector general report.

The report said the Bush administration and Iraq government poured $147 million into trying to create an Iraqi Oil Protection Force of 14,400 and an Iraqi Electric Power Security Service of 6,000 guards. But today, the electric security service no longer exists, and the oil force has shown only sporadic success.

The finding, to be released today, is among a series of assessments in the latest quarterly report from Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the Bush administration’s special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (SIGIR). It describes work on virtually every part of Iraq’s emerging democracy, from health care to education to energy production to the Iraqi security forces.

Mr. Bowen’s office also chides the U.S.-led multinational force in Baghdad for not cooperating in the probe of Task Force Shield.

“SIGIR did not receive access to selected information SIGIR requested form the … subordinate commands that was material to the audit,” the report said.

Last week, the Iraqi Oil Ministry also released a report critical of the nation’s petroleum industry, saying endemic corruption and a “new class of grand mafiosi” was costing the country billions.

The report includes updated numbers for the U.S. cost of reconstruction to date to $31.9 billion. United Nations-controlled oil proceeds that were transferred to the United States and then to the new Iraqi government also total about $30 billion.

The inspector general’s report contained some good news for the Bush administration. Electricity generation is improving and has exceeded prewar levels in areas outside Baghdad.

And Mr. Bowen confirmed U.S. commander assertions that the 250,000-strong Iraqi security force is much improved.

“Large-scale counterinsurgency initiatives this quarter demonstrated the growing capacity of the Iraqi forces to operate successfully in the field,” the report said. “In March 2006, soldiers from the 6th and 9th Iraqi Army divisions, with support from coalition forces, led Operation Glory Light, one of the largest operations of the last six months. Soldiers succeeded in taking control of an insurgent stronghold south of Baghdad.”

The inspector general’s report also disclosed serious problems in building a network of primary health care centers.

The plan was to have Parsons Global, an engineering and construction company in California, build 150 clinics for $190 million. But today, only six are complete, with 121 partially done. The United States has terminated the contract with Parsons.

“SIGIR inspectors assessed five of the [health centers] that were part of the Parsons contract,” the report said. “SIGIR found that these facilities were far from complete, and the completed portions were poorly constructed. There was inadequate quality control by the contractor and poor quality-assurance plans.”

A Parsons spokesman said the company might comment once it sees the report today.

The overall plan is to move Iraq away from a hospital-centered health care system and toward a network of regional clinics. Administration officials say they are investigating ways to have Iraqi companies ultimately build the centers.

Mr. Bowen, in part, blamed State Department and Pentagon officials for not overseeing the programs. When they discovered the major shortfall in 2005, they consolidated the near-term goal to 20 completed clinics.

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