BAGHDAD - Without more help provided quickly, Iraqi security forces may not be able to protect the fragile nation from insurgents and invaders after American troops leave at the end of the year, according to a US report released yesterday.
The semiannual report by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction also cites data by the US Embassy in Baghdad showing that the nation's government, economy, legal systems, and basic services like electricity and water remain unstable.
The 156-page report forecasts a dim outlook at best for Iraq's near future as the United States steps back after nearly eight years of war and billions of dollars in aid.
It largely blames corruption in Iraq's military and police forces for wasted resources and bad planning in running its bases and maintaining its equipment. Congress is weighing how much money to give Iraqi forces this year.
"Several US observers noted real or potential gaps in Iraqi security forces capabilities that could affect its ability to lock in hard-won security gains,'' the report concluded.
"The US faces the choice of making additional investments to fill essential gaps in Iraqi security forces' capabilities or accept the risk that they will fall short of being able to fully secure Iraq from internal and external threats by the time US forces depart.''
Under the security agreement between Washington and Baghdad, US troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year. The Obama administration would consider keeping some troops in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline, but only if Iraqi leaders ask for them.
More than 200 Iraqis, mostly security forces and Shi'ites, have been killed over the past two weeks in insurgent attacks that underscore the country's continuing instability. Still, the report warns that a lack of electricity, water, and sewage pose one of the greatest threats to Iraq's shaky peace.
"The lack of sufficient basic services will be the most likely cause of future instability in Iraq,'' it said, adding that power demands probably will not be met until 2014 at the earliest.