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A wilting coalition

Page 2 of 2 -- Italy and other nations are pulling out because Bush has neither calculator nor compass. This week the US Government Accountability Office issued a report that found that any claims of how many Iraqis have been trained as soldiers or cops are almost impossible to prove.

The report said the State Department claimed last month that 82,000 police officers and 60,000 soldiers have been trained and equipped. This is supposed to be on the way to 271,000 forces in the next 16 months. What was that again about Wolfowitz saying hundreds of thousands of troops was wildly off the mark?

But the GAO concluded that ''US government agencies do not report reliable data." It said that both the State Department and the Defense Department ''no longer report on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are equipped with their required weapons, vehicles, communications equipment, and body armor." It said the weak training of many Iraqi soldiers and police officers ''did not prepare them to fight against well-armed insurgents." It said ''many police who were hired remain untrained and unvetted."

The worst part of the report was, ''The reported number of security forces overstates the number actually serving." The Iraqi Ministry of Defense, obviously well learned in the Wolfowitz method of math, excludes the number of soldiers who abandoned the new army in the current chaos. The report says, ''the number of absentees is probably in the tens of thousands."

The report concluded, ''It is unclear at this time whether the system under development would provide adequate measures for determining the capability of Iraqi police." It said the establishing of a serious security force in Iraq faces the challenge of ''questionable loyalty," ''poor leadership," and ''the destabilizing influence of militias." It is, of course, not helping that the United States is setting a poor example of leadership: The military admitted this week that the deaths of at least 26 prisoners in US custody throughout Iraq and Afghanistan are confirmed or suspected homicides.

Country by country, the coalition is wilting from such uninspired leadership from the United States. Once Italy, Poland, Ukraine, and the Netherlands finish jumping ship, the US percentage of the dubious Iraq mission will creep from 85 percent to 90 percent. Italy is pulling out because it sees no exit strategy. The coalition of the willing is no longer willing to accept America's rosy scenario on Iraq. That still is not stopping us from exhibiting yet more poor leadership. It is fitting that Bush nominates Wolfowitz to head the World Bank just as more allies tell us we are wildly off the mark.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson@globe.com. 

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