Remember this from Petraeus’s recent COIN Guidance?
Employ money as a weapon system. Use a targeting board process to ensure the greatest effect for each ’round’ expended, and to ensure that each engagement using money contributes to the achievement of the unit’s overall objectives. Ensure contracting activities support the security effort, employing locals wherever possible. Employ a ‘matching fund’ concept when feasible in order to ensure Iraqi involvement and commitment.
Now The Washington Post has done a spectacular job detailing where the CERP funds — some $3,5 billion in all — have gone:
Army documents show that $48,000 was spent on 6,000 pairs of children’s shoes; an additional $50,000 bought 625 sheep for people described in records as ‘starving poor locals’ in a Baghdad neighborhood. Soldiers ordered $100,000 worth of dolls and $500,000 in action figures made to look like Iraqi Security Forces. About $14,250 was spent on ‘I Love Iraq’ T-shirts. More than $75,000 sent a delegation to a women’s and civil rights conference in Cairo. And $12,800 was spent for two pools to cool bears and tigers at Zawra Park Zoo in Baghdad.
Sustainable development? Think again:
The program is intended for short-term, small-scale ‘urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction.’ But as the broader $50 billion effort to rebuild Iraq with big infrastructure projects runs dry, CERP is by default taking on more importance as a reconstruction program, something it may not be equipped to do in a coordinated, nationwide way.
Amazingly, GEN Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff for the U.S. Army, claims that CERP is “in fact, a reconstruction program in addition to being a counterinsurgency weapon”. He does admit, however, that there’s a problem with “follow-through”:
In one case in 2005, he said, he brought water to 220,000 houses in the Sadr City section of Baghdad using CERP funds. But when he went back a year later to check on whether the program had been expanded to more houses, it hadn’t.
[Chiarelli] said that he and commanders in the field have all seen violent incidents in certain areas decline when CERP spending goes up.
After the firefights of the initial invasion, Chiarelli said, ‘you’ve then got somebody coming around to a commander, handing him a bag of $25,000 cash and saying to go rebuild Iraq.’
Good god. It appears the U.S. really doesn’t care what happens to Iraq, as long as it gets out with its feet dry. What’s worse, reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan are beset by the same stupidity, with PRT commanders subverting the central government and undermining civilian aid with their Quick Impact wads of cash.