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Questions Raised on U.S. Spending in Iraq

The Pentagon has been slow to disburse money for the training of Iraqi troops, a report says.

April 15, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military has spent only 40% of the $7 billion appropriated in 2005 for the training of security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, a top Pentagon priority that is a linchpin for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The slow pace of spending was outlined in a congressional report that also raised questions about whether the Pentagon needs the full $5.9 billion it has requested for training this year in an emergency spending bill that is pending in Congress.

The report comes as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the Bush administration have been complaining about cuts in funding for Iraqi forces in the House-passed version of the bill.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said the Pentagon is spending at a slower rate than Defense Department officials initially expected. As of Jan. 1, the report said, the Pentagon had allocated $2.1 billion, or just 37%, of the $5.7 billion in Iraqi training funds for the 2005 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Army Lt. Col. Michael J. Negard, spokesman for the training mission in Iraq, said the military's focus on increased security during elections caused some of the delay in spending. He said the pace of spending has picked up since the start of the year.

In a radio interview last week, Rumsfeld complained about the difficulty in getting Congress to quickly approve funds to help develop the Iraqi and Afghan armies and police forces.

"We can sustain financially five or six or seven or eight Afghan or Iraqi soldiers for the expense of one of ours, and yet we have a terrible time getting approval through the Congress to use some of the funds to develop the capacity."

Military officials have been stepping up the training of Iraqi security forces, saying that as the local army grows in strength and a permanent government takes hold, the U.S. will be able to withdraw some troops.

Negard said 135,000 Iraqi police officers and 115,000 military troops had been trained. The goal is to train roughly 195,000 police officers and 130,000 troops, he said.

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