Thursday, July 12, 2007

Iraq, Congress, and the Initial Benchmark Assessment Report

Or, Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
Or, There's Nothing so Lovely as Surrender in April.

As usual, Iraq is in the news.

According to what I read in the news, the Malachi government in Iraq got a "satisfactory" rating on only 8 of 18 "benchmarks", mixed reviews for 2 more, and for the 8 remaining, in an interim report: the Initial Benchmark Assessment Report.

The report I read had a different count:
  • 9 benchmarks met: (i), (iv), (viii), (ix), (xii), (xiii), (xiv), (xvi), (xvii)
  • 7 benchmarks not met: (ii),(iii), (vii), (x), (xi), (xv), (xviii)
  • 2 benchmarks with a mixture of achieved and unachieved goals: (v), (vi).)
Here's the report, in pdf and html format, from the White House.

The current administration, trying to help leaders in Iraq set up a working government after over 30 years of a selfish tyrant's mismanagement, decided to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. These soldiers were going to wage war on al Qaeda in Iraq, and anyone else who wanted to overthrow or disrupt the Iraqi government.

This has been called a "troop surge." Actually, the current strategy is called "the New Way Forward."

The last deployment of the U.S. troops involved in the "surge" arrived in Iraq just a few weeks ago.

According to the White House report, this "strategy -- the New Way Forward -- recognizes that the fulfillment of commitments by both the U.S. and Iraqi Governments will be necessary to achieving our common goal: a democratic Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself, and be an ally in the War on Terror."

There's already progress. Limited progress, but progress.

The report says, "Tough fighting should be expected through the summer as Coalition and Iraqi Forces seek to seize the initiative from early gains and shape conditions for longer-term stabilization. These combined operations -- named Operation Phantom Thunder -- were launched on June 15, 2007, after the total complement of surge forces arrived in Iraq. The full surge in this respect has only just begun."

With a three-week-old major offensive showing limited progress, together with efforts at political reconciliation at the national, provincial, and local level, Iraq has a chance at getting a working government. A good chance, according to the White House.

Faced with the imminent threat of military and political success in Iraq, the United States House of Representatives acted with a decisiveness seldom seen on Capitol Hill.

A headline in the Washington Post says it well: House passes bill to withdraw troops from Iraq.

The measure, which passed a few hours ago, would have the Pentagon start withdrawing troops within four months, with all but a token force of 10,000 out of Iraq by April 1 of next year. The skeleton crew left behind would "train Iraqi soldiers, conduct counter-terrorism operations and protect U.S. diplomats."

al Qaeda and all the others who don't like U.S. efforts to help Iraq have been reassured by the House of Representatives. If they hunker down and survive until April of next year, they can enjoy a victory that will make the evacuation of Saigon, back in 1975, look like a tea party. Come to think of it, Saigon fell in late April, 1975, roughly April 27-30.

About the slow political progress in Iraq, the report says that there is "increasing concern among Iraqi political leaders that the United States may not have a long term-commitment to Iraq."

In other words, the Iraqis who are trying to put their country back together were worried that U.S. political leaders would do exactly what they did do.

The House of Representatives' notion of peacemaking goes to the Senate next. What they'll do, with 2008 elections coming up, is anyone's guess.

I sincerely hope that this nation's leaders are not putting polls and their own campaign plans above the good of the people who live in this country.

Whatever Congress decides, and whatever their motives, the odds are that they'll get to have their elections in 2008. November is only 7 months after April.


My academic and business experience has taught me that it's best to read original documents: not what someone says the original documents say. The only place, aside from the White House website, that I found a link to the White House report was the Fox Newsarticle.

Here's my summary of what the "Initial Benchmark Assessment Report" of July 12, 2007, says about the benchmarks.

The report itself is useful, if somewhat tedious, reading. (Available at the White House site, in pdf and html format).

  • (i) Forming a Constitutional Review Committee and then completing the constitutional review.
    * satisfactory progress

  • (ii) Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Ba’athification reform.
    * unsatisfactory

  • (iii) Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources to 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, Shi’a Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner.
    * unsatisfactory, but it is too early to tell whether the Government of Iraq will enact and implement legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources to all Iraqis.

  • (iv) Enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions.
    * satisfactory progress

  • (v) Enacting and implementing legislation establishing an Independent High Electoral Commission, provincial elections law, provincial council authorities, and a date for provincial elections.
    * Multiple components to this benchmark, each deserving its own assessment:

    • Establishing the IHEC Commission:
      * satisfactory progress

    • Elections Law:
      * unsatisfactory progress

    • Provincial Council Authorities:
      * unsatisfactory progress

    • Provincial Elections Date:
      * unsatisfactory progress

  • (vi) Enacting and implementing legislation addressing amnesty.
    * hard to say -- prerequisites for a successful general amnesty are not present; however, in the current security environment, it is not clear that such action should be a near-term Iraqi goal

  • (vii) 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.
    * prerequisites ... are not present.

  • (viii) Establishing supporting political, media, economic, and services committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan.
    * satisfactory progress

  • (ix) Providing three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations.
    * satisfactory progress

  • (x) 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.
    * unsatisfactory progress

  • (xi) Ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law.
    * unsatisfactory progress

  • (xii) Ensuring that, as Prime Minister Maliki was quoted by President Bush as saying, "the Baghdad Security Plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation."
    * satisfactory progress

  • (xiii) Reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq and eliminating militia control of local security.
    * satisfactory progress

  • (xiv) Establishing all of the planned joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad.
    * satisfactory progress

  • (xv) Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently.
    * unsatisfactory progress

  • (xvi) Ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.
    * satisfactory progress

  • (xvii) Allocating and spending $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis.
    * satisfactory progress

  • (xviii) Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the ISF.
    * unsatisfactory progress

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.