By ERIC SCHMITT
The New York Times
July 2, 2004
WASHINGTON, July 1 A broad new Army report concludes that serious problems in training, organization and policy regarding military detention operations in Iraq and Afghanistan contributed to the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, senior defense officials said Thursday.
The inquiry, by Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, the Army inspector general, criticizes Army policy on detainee operations as a cold-war relic better suited to dealing with Soviet military prisoners on a European battlefield than with insurgents and Islamic jihadists fighting in Iraq, officials said. It cites inadequate training for military jailers and interrogators. And it describes poor leadership, overcrowded cells and poor medical care for Iraqi prisoners.
Taken together, these and many other of the 30 major findings paint a sobering picture of conditions, policies and practices that left the Army ill prepared to hold and question thousands of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib, officials said.
Earlier drafts found no systemic abuse at American-run prisons in Iraq or Afghanistan, and officials said that had not changed in the final report. The report will probably not assign blame to senior American officers in Iraq, defense officials said. That task, officials said, will be left to one or more of the half-dozen other inquiries under way.
General Mikolashek is putting the finishing touches on his report, which the acting Army secretary, Les Brownlee, is expected to make public in the next couple of weeks, officials said. Descriptions of the report's findings were provided by defense officials familiar with its general contents, but the report has not yet been made available to Congress for an independent assessment.
"It's going to be a tough report," said one defense official who has been briefed on the outlines of the report, which is based on a four-month review. "It will show that these various problems helped to create and contribute to an environment that left room for human error and possibly misconduct by soldiers."
The report will also make a series of recommendations that include overhauling Army policies to deal with detainee operations in counterinsurgencies. The doctrine, for instance, has yet to catch up with the need for a partnership between military police and interrogators in questioning captured insurgents in places like Iraq, officials said.
The recommendations will also urge revising the training for military police and military intelligence specialists who interrogate prisoners, and revamping medical guidelines, like the number of medics assigned to units working at prisons, officials said.
Revising the policy is significant, Army officials said, because changing policies has an important ripple effect on training, developing leadership skills, and even on fielding proper equipment.
Army officials said commanders at training facilities around the country and overseas were already beginning to change their procedures. "We are continuously collecting and rapidly applying lessons learned into our training, leader development and, as appropriate, our doctrine," one Army official said.
General Mikolashek, a former commander of land forces in the Middle East, and a team of military specialists have examined at least 16 different areas, including military intelligence and military police operations and their training, officials said.
Investigators interviewed military and civilian personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, and at Army training centers at Fort Polk, La., and Fort Irwin, Calif., officials said.
In a confidential Feb. 10 memorandum, Mr. Brownlee ordered General Mikolashek to "identify any capability shortfalls with respect to internment, enemy prisoner of war, detention operations, and interrogation procedures and recommend appropriate resolutions or changes, if required."
Many of the inspector general's findings are consistent with a preliminary assessment that Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander in the Middle East, described to the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 19.
At that hearing, General Abizaid said the Army itself would have to share some blame for not keeping pace with the kind of combat, stability operations and nation-building duties soldiers face today.
"Our doctrine is not right," General Abizaid told senators. "There are so many things that are out there that aren't right in the way that we operate for this war."
General Abizaid said that according to a briefing he had received, the inspector general found no "pattern of abuse" of prisoners in the Central Command's area of responsibility.
The officer who conducted the first major inquiry of abuse at the prison, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, also identified problems that the inspector general cited. "There is a general lack of knowledge, implementation and emphasis of basic legal, regulatory, doctrinal and command requirements" in the military police at Abu Ghraib, his report said.
The emerging details about the inspector general's report come as many of the other major inquiries are making fitful progress. The Army announced last Friday that Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones, deputy commander of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, had been assigned to interview Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez who led the military forces in Iraq from just after the invasion until his replacement on Thursday as part of a far-reaching inquiry into the role of military intelligence specialists at Abu Ghraib.
Another investigation by a four-member panel, headed by former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger, has interviewed two dozen military officers and civilian defense officials in Iraq, Europe and Washington as part of its inquiry to oversee all the other reviews.
The panel, whose report is due by the end of July, has already interviewed the Pentagon's top civilian intelligence official, Stephen A. Cambone, and General Sanchez. When it meets on July 8, members will interview General Abizaid and Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the 800th Military Police Brigade commander at Abu Ghraib, an official said.