A Window on the Surge

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Primary Sources:

The just-released White House interim report on the Baghdad Security Plan, or surge...

Initial Benchmark Assessment ReportUPDATE:

...And a statement on the report from the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton (D - Mo.)...

"The interim report from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker offers a mixed assessment, but provides little reason to think that we will see significant progress on critical benchmarks relating to Iraqi political progress and national reconciliation in the upcoming September assessment or in the foreseeable future.

"After more than four years, we can no longer afford the Administration's open-ended commitments in Iraq that have failed to bring about a stable Iraq and which increasingly limit U.S. options to address other critical national security concerns.

"The report reinforces my belief that we must start taking steps to responsibly redeploy U.S. forces from Iraq. Responsible redeployment, which would limit the U.S. military to missions such as counter-terrorism, protecting U.S. Embassy personnel, and training Iraqi security forces, is necessary if we expect the Iraqis to take primary responsibility for their country and for their security."

Update II: The Senate Weighs In

From SASC Chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) -

President Bush tried to paint a picture of the Iraqis making progress on half of the benchmarks for stabilizing their country. But on the benchmarks that matter most the political goals the picture is a bleak one of continued failure by the Iraqi leaders.

The President tried to gloss over their failure to make political progress by calling it a lagging indicator of the surge strategys success, but the real lagging indicator today was the Presidents refusal to face the reality that the surge isnt achieving its stated purpose giving the Iraqi leaders time and space to compromise their political differences.

Everyone agrees that there is no military solution to the violence in Iraq. Only a political solution among the Iraqi leaders themselves can end the chaos. President Bush acknowledged as much when he announced the troop surge in January, arguing a surge was necessary to give the Iraqi leaders breathing space to reach a political settlement.

Six months into the surge, there is no sign that an increased military presence has spurred the Iraqis to make the political compromises that only they can make. In fact, most signs point to the contrary. For example, the Administrations report confirms: The Government of Iraq has not made satisfactory progress toward enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification reform. And it states: The Government of Iraq has not made satisfactory progress toward establishing a provincial elections law.

Yet despite these continued failures, the report repeatedly states: This does not, however, necessitate a revision to our current plan and strategy. I, and a strong majority of Americans, disagree.

Even on the benchmarks judged satisfactory the report is tainted by a lack of realism. The report states: The Government of Iraq -- with substantial Coalition assistance -- has made satisfactory progress toward reducing sectarian violence. How many Iraqis would agree that progress in reducing sectarian violence has been satisfactory? How many Americans agree with that assessment?

Likewise, the report states: The Government of Iraq has made satisfactory progress toward forming a Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) and then completing the constitutional review. But the Constitutional Review Committee has made no recommendations on the most pressing issues, and the process has been bogged down in political bickering.

Its important to remember that these are not just goals we want the Iraqis to achieve; these are benchmarks they set for themselves. They were attached to a letter addressed to me by Secretary of State Rice on January 30, 2007, and confirmed in a subsequent letter from Secretary Rice on June 13, 2007 as having been formally approved by the Iraqi Political Committee which includes the Presidency Council the President and the two Vice Presidents as well as the leaders of all the major political blocs in Iraq. Of those 16 benchmarks, no more than three have been achieved.

The bottom line is that this report shows continued failure by the Iraqi leaders to reach a political reconciliation and a continued refusal by the Administration to change course to put pressure on the Iraqi leaders to achieve that political settlement.

-- Christian

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