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Wikileaks, new US report fuel controversy about Iraq's PM

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, under scrutiny for torture implications in the Wikileaks Iraq dump, raised US concerns after he moved to put Iraqi Special Forces under his control.

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Those include Iraqi Special Operations Forces.

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“Recent GOI [government of Iraq] decisions create concerns about whether the ISOF [Iraqi Special Operations Forces] is appropriately positioned within the GOI to ensure its independence and legitimacy,” says an assessment by the Special Inspector General released Monday.

How Maliki brought special ops forces under his control

Iraqi special forces until 2006 had been part of the Ministry of Defense, a structure recommended by the US which kept the elite but often undisciplined Iraqi troops in the military chain of command. It also "protected them from political influence,” the US report said.

“However starting in late 2006, the Prime Minister issued three Executive Orders that significantly changed the structure from the one that the US advisers had envisioned and recommended.” The changes placed the 4,100-strong force responsible for counterterrorism directly under the command of the prime minister. An attempt to retroactively seek approval from parliament for the change was never approved.

“The Special Ops program trained and equipped 4,100 special ops soldiers, providing essential counterterrorism capabilities,” the report said, noting that the special forces were now capable of conducting operations and missions and sustaining equipment and facilities. “But the total cost of the program is unknown, and the extra-constitutional movement of the Special Ops forces from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to the Office of the Prime Minister raises concerns about how the forces will be used in the future,” the report said.

No US assessments made on $7.3 billion police program

In an accompanying report, the agency said the US since 2003 has spent about $7.3 billion in an unprecedented program conducted during ongoing combat to help the Iraqi government train, staff, and equip Iraqi police forces.

“The DOD [Department of Defense] reports that over 400,000 Iraqi police have received training and are on the force. However, the capabilities of these forces are unknown because no assessments of total force capabilities were made,” it read.

In lessons it said could be applied to police training programs in Afghanistan, it also criticized weak program management that it said “undoubtedly led to inefficiencies and waste.”

As the US transfers responsibility for training police from the military to the State Department next year, it also noted that the company contracted to train the police, DynCorp International, would be essentially reporting on its own performance.

“These reports need monitoring to check the validity of the information and to ensure police advisers are productively employed,” it recommended.

IN PICTURES: Wikileaks and the war in Iraq