The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction concluded in a report Saturday that Iraq is “less safe” than it was 12 months ago and “remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work.”
The findings, delivered to Congress in a 172-page quarterly report titled “A Summer of Uncertainty”, come as Iraq weighs whether it wants the United States to maintain a military presence there after the end of the year. The report will also likely add fuel to the debate in Washington over the situation in Iraq, and whether U.S. military personnel will need to remain in the country after a Status of Forces Agreement expires in December. Roughly 44,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq.
“Whatever the decision, the outcome will significantly affect the ongoing U.S. reconstruction program, which is in the throes of a series of transitions from the Department of Defense to the Department of State,” according to the report.
The report points to the 14 U.S. troops killed in June by hostile fire in Iraq, making last month the deadliest there in more than two years. Iranian-backed Shia militias have grown more active in the last year and are responsible for many of the attacks.
Other security problems in the last several months include frequent rocket attacks against Baghdad’s Green Zone using more destructive and more accurate Iranian-produced munitions, as well as the assassination of many senior Iraqi officials, including judges and generals.
On a trip to Iraq earlier this month, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed impatience with Iraqi officials for not deciding if they want the United States to stay in the country into 2012. Any decision to keep U.S. military personnel in Iraq requires a formal request from the country.
Aside from the security situation, the IG report already has sparked concerns on Capitol Hill that the State Department has not cooperated with audits and has not provided documentation on whether officials have implemented recommendations for improvement. Oversight at the Defense Department continues to be a problem, with contractors overbilling the government for goods and services.
Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, seized on reports of markups of as much as 12,666 percent. One subcontractor charged the Pentagon $900 for a control switch valued at $7.05.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Department of State is undermining oversight efforts by SIGIR and is failing to implement its recommendations to guard against fraud and mismanagement of U.S. funds,” Collins said in a statement early Saturday.
Pointing to the ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling, Collins said Congress “should not tolerate any resistance to accountability and transparency that ensures the American people’s enormous investment in Iraq is not eroded.”