Report Charts Iraqi Political, Economic, Security Progress
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2006 The Iraqi government and military are making progress politically, economically and in security, according to a DoD report to Congress.
Peter Rodman, assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., Rodman's Joint Staff counterpart, spoke to reporters about the report today. Congress mandated the quarterly report, "Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq," as part of the fiscal 2006 National Defense Authorization Act.
Rodman said the report pulls no punches. It points out failures -- oil and electricity production -- as well as successes -- political and security gains. "We tried to answer the question that Congress asked and just lay out how we see things," Rodman said.
On the political front, the report points out that the Iraqis have reached every milestone set out as part of the Transitional Administrative Law. In January 2005, 58 percent of Iraqis participated in electing the National Assembly. That group wrote the new Iraqi constitution. In October 2005, 63 percent of Iraqis voted in the constitutional referendum. In December 2005, 77 percent of Iraqis voted to elect the permanent government.
Terrorists and insurgents failed to stop the political progress, Rodman said, and at each opportunity a larger number of Iraqis participated in that process, with 12 million Iraqis participating in the December canvass.
Rodman said he was encouraged by the response of the Sunni Arab community in Iraq. More Sunni Arabs are turning to the government, leaving hard-core insurrectionists more and more isolated, he said. "Obviously, they are participating vigorously in the political process. That's necessary, but not sufficient," he said. "The second step is they have to repudiate the violence and join the Iraqi effort of defeating the extremists."
The economy is showing mixed success, largely due to shortfalls in the oil business. Two-thirds of Iraq's gross domestic product is tied to oil. Insurgent attacks and a crumbling infrastructure have constrained production. On the positive side, GDP grew by 2.6 percent in 2005 and is projected to grow faster over the next few years.
On the security side, there has been marked progress. The Iraqi security forces protected the population as it voted during the three elections of 2005. Ninety-eight Iraqi army and special police battalions are now conducting operations in the country. There are 232,000 members of the security forces "trained and equipped." There has been a 47 percent increase in the number of Iraqi battalions "in the lead" against terrorists - from 47 in October 2005 to 53 today, Renuart said. In addition, Iraqi units have now assumed the battlespace in large swathes of the country.
"In Baghdad, nearly 70 percent of the city is under control of Iraqi forces," Renuart said. Eight Iraqi divisions have stood up and assumed control of their forces, he said.
But the big indicator is how Iraqi forces are doing in battle. "We have no indications anywhere where an Iraqi unit has either surrendered -- even down to platoon level -- or where they have run," Renuart said. He said the Iraqi army has a coherent capability to take control of situations and interface with police forces.
Overall, the report points to progress. Leaders in the country now must work to put together a united government for the next steps to be made.
The next report is due to Congress in May 2006, Pentagon officials said.