Crescono le preoccupazioni, il ministero della Difesa iacheno delude le aspettative

Irak, pol. interna, forze armate, Usa          Nyt        05-08-03

Le nuove truppe stanno pian piano ricevendo dagli americani nuovi equipaggiamenti, pronta la prima brigata corazzata, in arrivo i 77 carri armati sovietici T-72 donati dall’Ungheria.

I soldati iracheni lamentano la carenza in particolare di veicoli corrazzati; gran parte dell’equipaggiamento per il nuovo esercito è fornito da Usa e governi stranieri.

Il ministero della Difesa iracheno si occupa solo della distribuzione, tramite appaltatori locali, che non vengono pagati regolarmente.
Ai primi di luglio diverse società hanno minacciato il blocco dei rifornimenti di vettovaglie, impianti sanitari, elettricità etc. alle truppe irachene perché non pagate da mesi.
Sono in corso indagini su acquisti, fatti direttamente dal ministero iracheno, di elicotteri, mitragliatrici e veicoli corazzati  difettosi o obsoleti.
Tra gli indagati Ziad Tariq Cattan, rientrato in Irak nel 2004 e divenuto il maggior responsabile del ministero per gli acquisti di armamenti.

Nyt          05-08-03

Worry Grows as Iraq’s Defense Ministry Falls Short of Expectations

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 1 – The reformed Iraqi Ministry of Defense, a crucial element of any American plan to withdraw troops, is riddled with crippling problems that have raised concerns about its ability to keep Iraqi units paid, fed and equipped once it assumes full responsibility for the army, American and Iraqi commanders say.

The shortcomings of the ministry, which was overhauled under the American occupation authorities last year, are a growing concern to the American commanders. Hoping to withdraw large numbers of the 135,000 American combat troops in the next year, these commanders say their plans hinge on a functioning ministry. If American troops leave without one in place, they say, the Iraqi Army could quickly collapse.

"What are lacking are the systems that pay people, that supply people, that recruit people, that replace the wounded and AWOL, and systems that promote people and provide spare parts," said a top American commander in Iraq, who asked not to be identified because his assessment of Iraqi abilities went beyond the military’s public descriptions.

"If they don’t have that capability, we won’t be able to take the training wheels off and let them operate independently," the commander said.

So concerned are military planners that, in the event that American combat troops do indeed leave over the next year, they are preparing to keep large numbers of support troops and supplies in Iraq or in nearby countries, ready to assist Iraqi units fighting insurgents, the American commander said.

Building the new army is a vast undertaking, made all the more difficult by the need to fight a violent insurgency at the same time.
Iraqi soldiers complain that they lack some crucial equipment for fighting the insurgents, especially armored vehicles.

While much of the equipment for the new army is provided by the United States and other foreign governments, the ministry is nominally in charge of distributing it to troops from supply depots being created all around the country. Even routine equipment and supply requests are supposed to be cleared by ministry officials, but there are not enough people to handle the job or procedures in place to ensure that it is done smoothly.

Instead, American trainers embedded with each Iraqi unit often have to step in to ensure that necessary equipment is delivered, several American officers said.

The ministry has responsibility for feeding troops and for operating the growing number of bases where soldiers are stationed around the country, but those jobs are handled largely by Iraqi contractors, many of whom came close to shutting down their operations last month after not being paid for weeks, American officials said.

There are also indications of widespread corruption involving the ministry’s purchases of equipment using its own money. Iraqi authorities said last month that they were investigating possible kickbacks in connection with more than $300 million in purchases of defective and outdated helicopters, machine guns and armored personnel carriers by the department’s former procurement chief.

The ministry has not yet put in place a system for commanding units in the field, American and Iraqi officials said. Although the army’s ground forces headquarters officially opened in May, in July its operations center, which is supposed to keep track of units and transmit orders from the country’s civilian authorities and top generals, still was not operational.

A Ministry of Defense spokesman played down the ministry’s role in the supply problems. "Coalition forces are responsible and supervising the processes of getting the weapons and supplies for our army," said the spokesman, Saleh Sirhan, adding, "There is no problem in getting paychecks to the soldiers."

American officials say, however, that problems remain and that the ministry will have to make great strides in the next year to stand on its own. The officials add that the Iraqi defense minister, Sadun al-Dulaymi, who was appointed by the new government in May, understands his department’s shortcomings and is trying to fix them.

American officials accept some of the responsibility for the ministry’s shortcomings, saying they focused initially on building combat units to fight insurgents. Only now, they admit, are they putting comparable effort into developing Iraq’s equivalent of the Pentagon.

"There’s an enormous amount of effort under way to build the logistical capability" in the military and "supporting ministries and headquarters," said Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who leads the American training effort. He recently announced he was leaving Iraq after completing his one-year tour of duty.

The top-ranked Iraqi military leader, Gen. Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassim, placed blame for many of the army’s woes on the decision by the American occupation authorities last year to hire civilians, who lacked extensive military experience.

Equipment purchases and the awarding of contracts have been hampered by cronyism and corruption, he said, and some army commands have been handed out because of family and tribal connections. At one point the buyers at the Defense Ministry chose civilian radios that he said were suitable for taxis, not for the secure communications required for the military.

"The problem is that the Americans made mistakes when they hired the wrong people at the Ministry of Defense," General Jassim said in an interview. "These people are corrupt."

He added, "If we want to build the army, the politician
s should not impose these people on our organization."

Among the ministry officials hired by the Coalition Provisional Authority, which administered Iraq until last year, was Ziad Tariq Cattan, an Iraqi who had spent years abroad before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and, in 2004, became the ministry’s top weapons buyer. An American military official, who would not speak for attribution because the Iraqi investigation was continuing, said Mr. Cattan was being investigated for possible misuse of Iraqi funds and receiving kickbacks in connection with several major contracts.

Mr. Sirhan, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry, confirmed that Mr. Cattan "was fired from the ministry a month ago by a decision issued from the prime minister council due to the accusations" of procurement fraud.

In an interview with Knight Ridder Newspapers in July, Mr. Cattan denied wrongdoing and said American officials oversaw all contracts at the ministry, which would have made it impossible for him to commit the misdeeds of which he is accused.

With American help, Iraq’s new soldiers are slowly overcoming the equipment problems, officials say. In one week in July, for example, Iraqi Army and police units received more than 1,000 new sets of body armor.

This month, more than 500 armored vehicles are to arrive for a force that now largely gets around in pickup trucks. Iraq’s first armored brigade is now trained and in the field, and 77 Soviet-designed T-72 tanks donated to Iraq by Hungary are expected in Iraq soon.

The ministry has overcome its lack of internal support troops by employing private Iraqi companies to deliver food and other daily necessities. But that approach has brought its own problems.

In early July, several companies that supply food, sanitation, electricity and other services to Iraqi troops threatened to halt operations because they had not been paid in months. American commanders, worried that thousands of soldiers without food would leave their bases, pressed ministry officials to negotiate stopgap payments, according to American officials.

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, warned Iraqi officials last month that if soldiers were not fed, there was a danger of units collapsing as soldiers went AWOL, according to two American officers. "It was resolved, but it was a little bit of a drama," said one of the officers.

The soldiers in the field know firsthand about the ministry’s problems.

When Sgt. Ameer Jabar Talb, a stocky 26-year-old, joined the new Iraqi Army, he received a uniform, an AK-47 assault rifle and a poorly made flak vest that wore out within three months.

But his requests for replacement body armor, sent to the Ministry of Defense, went unheeded for months, Sergeant Talb said. Exasperated, he finally spent $100 of his own money on a new flak jacket.

"The Ministry of Defense is useless," he said, pointing to the discarded vest by his barracks desk. Copyright 2005 The New York Times

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