Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration.
Such facts are why I am not all that encouraged by the progress made by The Surge. While I will allow that there has been some progress made on the security front in some quarters, focusing solely on that as if we have turned a corner misses the point that the fundamental issue at hands remains state-building (i.e., the political and infrastructure side of things). The White House and many of the pro-war punditocracy wish to treat the security issue as co-equal, if not more important than, the political side of things. While I readily allow, and have from the beginning, that security is necessary for political progress, short-term security is not the primary goal, not by a longshot.
Even if one believes the surge to be a remarkable policy achievement, one has to admit that the US military cannot surge indefinitely. As such, the real measure of success is about things other than security, because it isn’t as if the surge is eliminating all possibles founts of violence. No, the surge is primarily suppressing them. That is an important distinction, as it means that once the surge ends, there will be a resumption of violence.
And beyond that, the report isn’t that sanguine on whether the security situation has really improved all that much:
“While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced,” it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that “the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved.”
“Overall,” the report concludes, “key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds,” as promised.
Overall, the draft report, titled “Securing, Stabilizing and Rebuilding Iraq,” says that the Iraqi government has met only two security benchmarks. It contradicts the Bush administration’s conclusion in July that sectarian violence was decreasing as a result of the U.S. military’s stepped-up operations in Baghdad this year. “The average number of daily attacks against civilians remained about the same over the last six months; 25 in February versus 26 in July,” the GAO draft states.
For the country to be failing on so many of the benchmarks ought to give even the rare optimist on Iraq a healthy dose of pause.
As a side note, our inability to provide security immediately after the invasion is one of the prime mistakes that was made at the begging of this enterprise. The problem has been the need to try and put the lid back on Pandora’s Box after allowing the situation to degenerate to the level that it has.
BTW, I wonder how many of the administration’s booster will ignore what the document says and instead wail about the fact that it was leaked.
I have posted a graphic that details the benchmarks and their status: click.
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