A Number of Explanations

In recent days, high level officials in the administration have made it clear that not only have we fallen far short of our goals on troop training in Iraq, but also that they have literally no idea how many troops are actually trained.

For purposes of review, here’s Donald Rumsfeld last September:

RUMSFELD: We have gone from zero to 95,000 Iraqis that are fully trained, fully equipped, providing their own security. They’ll be up to about 145,000 Iraqis by the end of this year, fully trained, fully equipped. There are some another [sic] 50,000 of them that are not fully trained or fully equipped yet but that have been recruited and are capable of doing some things.

Now, from Meet the Press on Sunday:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Joe Biden, Delaware Democrat, said this week in Washington that there are only 4,000 fully trained and capable Iraqi soldiers in the Iraqi armed forces. Is that accurate?

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ, JOHN NEGROPONTE: Well, I think that really understates the accomplishments of the Iraqi army and police forces. They’ve had a number of successes in the past several months in Najaf, in Samarra, in eastern Baghdad. There are some 75 or 80 Iraqi battalions that are currently trained and operating, so I think that that 4,000 figure understates the progress that has been made by Iraq’s armed forces in the past six months.

MR. RUSSERT: Where would you put the figure? What should the American people know? How many fully capable and trained Iraqi soldiers are there?

AMB. NEGROPONTE: I’d be — I’m not certain what number to put on the number trained.

From Condoleezza Rice’s confirmation hearing last Thursday:

SEN. BIDEN: Now, how many do you really think are trained that Allawi can look to and say, “I can rely on those forces”? What do you think that number is?

RICE: Senator, I have to rely on what I get from the field…We think the number right now is somewhere over 120,000. We think that, among those people, there clearly continue to be questions about on-duty time, that is, people who don’t report for duty. And so this is being looked at…

But I do want to note, Senator, that the Iraqis are making a lot of sacrifices here.

BIDEN: Well, I thank you for your answer. I think you’ll find, if you speak to the folks on the ground, they don’t think there’s more than 4,000 actually trained Iraqi forces. I strongly urge you to pick up the phone or go see these folks.

Note that Rice and Negroponte don’t just exaggerate, they fail to answer the questions at all. Rice hedges (“I have to rely on what I get from the field”), then vaguely exaggerates (“somewhere over 120,000”). Negroponte doesn’t even hazard a guess, admitting he’s “not certain” about numbers, then directs our attention to “progress” made in the past six months. Meanwhile, even Rice’s high estimate would place us well short of where the Secretary of Defense said we’d be — not in 2003, not early last year — but in September, three months ago.

Update:

Meanwhile, even Rice’s high estimate would place us well short of where the Secretary of Defense said we’d be — not in 2003, not early last year — but in September, three months ago.

[featuredcomment]Note that Rice and Negroponte don’t just exaggerate, they fail to answer the questions at all.[/featuredcomment]