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Iraq Police Development Program Being Scaled Back But Not Ending Completely, U.S. Embassy Says

By BUSHRA JUHI 05/13/12 11:43 AM ET AP

BAGHDAD — A pair of bombings killed four people Sunday in attacks targeting Iraq's security forces, officials said, while the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad maintained it will continue training Iraqi police despite cutbacks to the program.

The first bomb exploded near a security patrol in the western city of Ramadi, killing one policeman and wounding seven people. Hours later, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a security checkpoint in Baghdad, killing three people – including two policemen – and wounding nine more.

Police and hospital officials in both Ramadi and Baghdad confirmed the casualty figures. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Violence has dropped across Iraq since the days when the country teetered on the brink of civil war just a few years ago, but deadly attacks still happen nearly every day. Insurgents launch frequent attacks on Shiites and security forces loyal to the Shiite-led government in an attempt to revive sectarian fighting in the country.

The U.S. Embassy's $500 million police training program has been touted as one of the main efforts to continue supporting Iraqi security forces in the wake of the American military's withdrawal last December.

A recent report by U.S. government auditors found that the Police Development Program is the embassy's most expensive initiative with Iraq. Last month, the embassy reported to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction that it was withdrawing American advisers from the Baghdad Police College.

The New York Times reported Sunday that the embassy has dramatically slashed the program and may eliminate it by the end of the year.

The U.S. Embassy denied the report, saying in a statement Sunday that there are no plans to end the program completely.

Embassy spokesman Michael McClellan called the police training program "a vital part of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship." He said the move to turn over the police academy to Iraqi officials would help save money – but still allow advisers to help out in other ways.

The police training program started last October after more than two years of planning how best to set it up, according to the audit. A month later, the Interior Ministry's principal deputy minister, Adnan al-Asadi, told auditors that the program would be reviewed at the end of 2012 to see whether it was successful or necessary in the future.

The State Department has said for months that it is trying to trim, or "right-size" some programs to save money at the embassy in Baghdad, which has for years been the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in the world. The police program was identified in February as one program that might be reduced.

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Associated Press Writer Lara Jakes in Baghdad and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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Filed by Chris Gentilviso  |