White House Report: Iraq Showing Good Progress in 8 of 18 Benchmark Areas
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 12, 2007 Iraqis are showing good progress toward meeting eight of 18 benchmarks set by Congress and mixed progress toward two other benchmarks, President Bush said today as he summarized findings of a new White House report.
The Initial Benchmark Assessment Report, released today, offers a preliminary review of security, political and economic progress in Iraq. Congress set a July 15 deadline for the report as part of the emergency war-spending supplemental measure. The final report is due in September.
Bush said the September report is expected to be far more telling because it will reflect the impact of the 30,000-troop surge in Iraq, which became full strength only a month ago.
“In September, as Congress has required, General (David H.) Petraeus, (commander of Multinational Force Iraq) and Ambassador (Ryan) Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment,” Bush said. “By that time, we hope to see further improvement in the positive areas and the beginning of improvement in the negative areas.”
The September report also will provide “a clearer picture of how the new strategy is unfolding,” putting those who read it “in a better position to judge where we need to make adjustments,” he said.
In the meantime, the many areas in the interim report showing solid progress reflect success in the Baghdad security plan. The report cites positive movement toward:
• Establishing supporting political, media, economic and services committees in support of the plan;
• Providing three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations;
• Ensuring the plan doesn’t provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of their sectarian or political affiliations; and
• Establishing planned joint security stations in Baghdad.
“Iraqis have provided the three brigades they promised for operations in and around Baghdad,” Bush said today. “And the Iraqi government is spending nearly $7.3 billion from its own funds this year to train, equip and modernize its forces.”
The report also notes that the Iraqi government, with substantial coalition assistance, has made satisfactory progress toward reducing sectarian violence. However, it recognizes that the progress has not yet extended to eliminating militia control of local security.
Iraqis also are making satisfactory progress on several key areas on the political front, the report notes. It recognizes positive momentum toward:
• Forming a constitutional review committee and completing the constitutional review;
• Enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions;
• Protecting rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature; and
• Allocating funds to ministries and provinces.
Two benchmark areas show progress “too mixed to be characterized one way or another,” Bush said, and “in eight other areas, the Iraqis have much more work to do.”
“For example, they’ve not done enough to prepare for local elections or pass a law to share oil revenues,” the president said.
Bush said he’s not surprised that political progress is lagging behind security gains being experienced in Iraq. “Our strategy is built on the premise that progress on security will pave the way for political progress,” he said.
To help further boost political progress, Bush announced today that he will exercise waiver authority granted by Congress to release more economic development funds. These funds are designed to spur economic progress also deemed critical to political progress.
Bush acknowledged today that people reading the Initial Benchmark Assessment Report are likely to interpret it depending on their views about the war.
“Those who believe that the battle in Iraq is lost will likely point to the unsatisfactory performance on some of the political benchmarks,” he said. “Those of us who believe the battle in Iraq can and must be won see the satisfactory performance on several of the security benchmarks as a cause for optimism.”
Bush said the debate over Iraq sometimes gets miscast as a disagreement between those who want to keep U.S. troops in Iraq and those who want to bring them home. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to see the day when our brave servicemen and –women can start coming home,” he said.
Bush cited his address to the nation in January, when he advocated the surge to accelerate progress in Iraq. “I put it this way: If we increase our support at this critical moment, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home,” he said today.
“The real debate over Iraq is between those who think the fight is lost or not worth the cost and those who believe the fight can be won and that, as difficult as the fight is, the costs of defeat would be far higher,” he said.
“I believe we can succeed in Iraq, and I know we must,” he said.
By working to defeat terrorists and extremists and ensure the Iraqi government succeeds, the United States and its coalition partners are laying conditions that will have a long-term impact, Bush said.
“By doing so, we’ll create the conditions that will allow our troops to begin coming home, while securing our long-term national interests in Iraq and the region,” he said.