Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wasted Billions/Equipping US Troops

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) just released its quarterly report and truth be told I could probably just copy and paste my earlier blog entry on the last SIGIR report in this space. Little to no progress has been made in reviving crucial sectors of Iraq such as water and electricity, and reconstruction projects continue to suffer from poor construction practices and in a new twist, unwarranted extravagances. In one case, contractors building a camp for American trainers constructed an Olympic-size swimming pool that hadn't been ordered.

Once again at issue is a lack of effective oversight. The major contractors are passing on the contracts to Iraqi subcontractors without ever following up.

In its last report SIGIR revealed that 4% of the weapons that the United States had provided to Iraqi security forces could not be accounted for. This time around, SIGIR went a step further auditing the US' ability to equip the soldiers presently stationed in Iraq. SIGIR found that many soldiers have gone without guns, ammunition and other supplies necessary for the soldiers to complete missions. Soldiers have also been found lacking proper body armor, armored vehicles and communication devices. This Washington Post article has more details on the challenges the Pentagon is having equipping US troops.

So because of a lack of proper oversight, billions have been wasted on shoddy reconstruction projects essentially depriving US soldiers of the equipment they count on to survive in Iraq. And this is not even taking into account the 21,000 extra troops that will soon be arriving in Iraq. How will we properly equip them, if we can't even manage to satisfy the demands of the soldiers currently in Iraq? Add to this the fact that the Iraqi security forces these soldiers will be fighting alongside are similarly ill-equipped. Putting aside any notion you may have that we have already lost, this new strategy for Iraq has been cited by many as our last shot at achieving a preferred outcome in Iraq. So how is it that we can't dedicate all our efforts to increasing its probability for success? Let us just hope that those on the ground in Iraq and on the Hill in DC are readying a Plan B.

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