02 April 2008

Gearing Up for the Next Petraeus and Crocker Show

The Congressional elections of November, 2006 were widely seen as a resounding rejection of the war in Iraq by the citizens of the United States. Seen by everyone that is, except the President. In his January, 2007 State of the Union address, he said:

We're carrying out a new strategy in Iraq -- a plan that demands more from Iraq's elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission. Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror.

In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we're deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq.
And so was born the surge. The new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate then flexed their muscles, and gave the President everything he asked for as they funded the surge through the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007. In a minor fit of conscience, however, they did append language to the bill establishing a set of benchmarks against which progress in Iraq was to be judged.

The first review of these benchmarks was in September, 2007. Knowing that a complete lack of credibility would prevent Congressional testimony by Bush, Cheney, Gates or Rice, it was decided that the surge report card would be delivered by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Despite the rosy picture painted by Petraeus and Crocker in their testimony, the Government Accountability Office also presented its own report on the 18 benchmarks that were established in the funding bill. They found that as of September, 2007, three of the 18 benchmarks were met, four were partially met and 11 were unmet.

On January 24, 2008, the Center for American Progress published an updated report on the Iraq benchmarks on the one year anniversary of the State of the Union speech announcing the surge. They found three benchmarks met, five partially met and 10 unmet. Below is a list of these benchmarks, with their description from the GAO report, their status in September, 2007 from GAO and their status in January, 2008 from the Center for American Progress. On a few of them are some added comments about events since January. A new report by Petraeus and Crocker is scheduled for Congressional testimony on April 8, so this analysis is meant as an aid in preparing for the testimony to follow.

1. Forming a Constitutional Review Committee and completing the constitutional review.
Unmet in both reports, although there is a recent report of members of this committee traveling to Northern Ireland to study conditions there.

2. Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Ba’athification.
Unmet in the GAO report and partially met in the CAP report.

3. Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources of the people of Iraq without regard to the sect or ethnicity of recipients, and enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner.
Unmet in both reports. Even worse, during Cheney's trip the region, it was reported that Crocker and Petraeus are now negotiating directly with oil firms for new contracts with the Iraq government.

4. Enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions.
Partially met in GAO report and unmet in CAP report.

5. Enacting and implementing legislation establishing an Independent High Electoral Commission, provincial elections law, provincial council authorities, and a date for provincial elections.
Unmet in both reports. The prospect of provincial elections was a point Bush touted prominently in the 2007 State of the Union speech, but still, over 15 months later, no elections because conditions are simply too unstable.

6. Enacting and implementing legislation addressing amnesty.
Unmet in both reports.

7. Enacting and implementing legislation establishing a strong militia disarmament program to ensure that such security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the Constitution of Iraq.
Unmet in both reports.

8. Establishing supporting political, media, economic, and services committees in support of the Baghdad security plan.
Met in both reports.

9. Providing three trained and ready brigades to support Baghdad operations.
Patially met in both reports. This really should be considered an abject failure. Note that much of the talk prior to the surge was about how the US will "stand down" as the Iraqis "stand up". Also, before assuming overall command of Iraq, Petraeus' primary duty was in training Iraqi security forces. So, 15 months after starting this glorious surge, we are only partially to the point of training and implementing a measly three brigades. That is pathetic.

10. Providing Iraqi commanders with all authorities to execute this plan and to make tactical and operational decisions, in consultation with U.S. commanders, without political intervention, to include the authority to pursue all extremists, including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias.
Unmet in GAO report and partially met in CAP report. I suspect that CAP would withdraw the partially met designation after the abject failure last week of Iraqi forces taking on the al Sadr militia in Basra.

11. Ensuring that Iraqi security forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law.
Unmet in both reports.

12. Ensuring that, according to President Bush, Prime Minister Maliki said “the Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation.”
Partially met in GAO report, unmet in CAP report.

13. Reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq and eliminating militia control of local security.
Unmet in GAO report, partially met in CAP report. Again given the events of last week indicate that security in Sadr City is still under the control of al Sadr, so the partially met designation by CAP is no longer warranted.

14. Establishing all of the planned joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad.
Met in both plans.

15. Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently.
Unmet in both plans. As discussed above, the inability to develop security forces, after 15 months of trying, is inexcusable and calls into question whether Iraq will ever be able to develop security forces while the US continues its occupation.

16. Ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.
Met in both plans.

17. Allocating and spending $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis.
Partially met in both reports.

18. Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi security forces.
Unmet in both reports.

Summarizing, the Center for American Progress found that status on two benchmarks that were partially met in September, 2007 had deteriorated to unmet. They found that status on three benchmarks unmet in September, 2007 had improved to partially met. Unfortuantely, the increased violence last week, and the demonstrated ability of Muqtadq al Sadr to both increase and decrease violence at his command, demonstrated that two of those areas of partial progress are no longer warranted.

At this point, 15 months after the funding of the surge, three benchmarks are met, three are partially met and 12 are unmet. The net change since September, 2007 is negative in this analysis, by one partially met benchmark. It will be quite interesting to see just how Petraeus and Crocker try to put lipstick on this pig.

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