In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, General David Petraeus provided his view of the military surge strategy in Iraq. Reporting reductions in sectarian and overall levels of violence, the slowly increasing capacity of Iraqi security forces, and the tribal rejection of al Qaeda in Iraq in Anbar province, General Petraeus told Congress that “the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met.” He testified that, given the progress being made, “we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level…by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains we have fought so hard to achieve.” At the same time, he noted that “there are no easy answers or quick solutions,” that solving Iraq’s problems “will require a long-term effort,” and that further troop reductions should not be considered until March 2008.
General Petraeus’s report follows three separate assessments from independent experts and our intelligence community, each of which concluded that the Bush Administration’s surge plan had failed to achieve meaningful progress for national reconciliation in Iraq – the stated goal of the surge. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Iraqi government had failed to meet 15 of 18 benchmarks for national reconciliation; our nation’s sixteen intelligence agencies assessed, in a recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), that Iraq’s political leaders remain unable to govern effectively; and a group of security experts and former military officials, the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, reported that Iraq’s security forces are increasingly infiltrated by sectarian militias, incapable of protecting its citizens and will not be able to operate independently for at least 12 to 18 months. Further, each of these reports found that overall levels of violence in Iraq have remained unchanged since the surge began, and warned that the security and political situation in Iraq is likely to deteriorate in the near term, with Iraq’s leaders unable and/or unwilling to rise above narrow political and sectarian interests.
The following report highlights the key excerpts of the August GAO report on Securing, Stabilizing and Rebuilding Iraq; the August 2007 NIE, Prospects for Iraq’s Stability; and the September report of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq.
Independent reports show that the surge strategy has failed to achieve political reconciliation, the stated goal of the President’s escalation plan
NIE: Sectarian and terrorist violence continue to fuel instability while Iraq’s political leaders remain unwilling to rise above narrow political and sectarian interests. “Political and security trajectories in Iraq continue to be driven primarily by Shi’a insecurity about retaining political dominance, widespread Sunni unwillingness to accept a diminished political status, factional rivalries within the sectarian communities resulting in armed conflict, and the actions of extremists such as AQI and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia that try to fuel sectarian violence.” (National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07)
GAO: The Iraqi government has failed to meet 15 of 18 benchmarks for national reconciliation. “Our analysis of the 18 legislative, security and economic benchmarks shows that as of August 30, the Iraqi government had met 3, partially met 4, and did not meet 11 of its 18 benchmarks. Overall, key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds.” (GAO, 9/4/07)
- GAO: The least progress has been made on the political front: the Iraqi government has failed to make progress on 7 of 8 legislative benchmarks. “The Iraqi government has not fulfilled commitments it first made in June 2006 to advance legislative, security and economic measures that would promote national reconciliation among Iraq’s warring factions. Of particular concern is the lack of progress on the constitutional review that could promote greater Sunni participation in the national government and comprehensive hydrocarbon legislation that would distribute Iraq’s vast oil wealth. Despite Iraq’s leaders recently signing a unity accord, the polarization of Iraq’s major sects and ethnic groups and fighting among Shi’a factions diminishes the stability of Iraq’s governing coalition and its potential to enact legislation needed for sectarian reconciliation.” (GAO, 9/4/07)
- GAO Commissioner Walker: The Iraqi government is “dysfunctional,” it has failed to improve the lives of the Iraqi people. “[T]he least progress has been made on the political front. So I would say that one would have to say, based upon that, and given the fact that significant progress has not been made in improving the living conditions of the Iraqis on a day-to-day basis with regard to things that all citizens care about — safe streets, clean water, reliable electricity, a variety of other basic things, I think you’d have to say it’s dysfunctional: The government is dysfunctional.” (David Walker Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 9/4/07)
Independent reports show that the surge strategy has failed to provide the dramatic security and stability reversals the President originally hoped for
GAO: Overall levels of violence remain high; some trends run counter to the Administration claim that sectarian violence has declined. “It is unclear whether sectarian violence in Iraq has decreased – a key security benchmark – since it is difficult to measure the perpetrator’s intent and other measures of population security show differing trends.” The report notes that, “the average number of daily attacks against civilians remained about the same over the last six months. The decrease in total average daily attacks in July is largely due to a decrease in attacks on coalition forces rather than civilians. While overall attacks declined in July compared to June, levels of violence remain high. Enemy initiated attacks have increased around major religious and political events, including Ramadan and elections.” (GAO, 9/4/07)
NIE: Iraqi leaders are unable to govern, levels of violence remain high, and living conditions in Iraq have failed to improve. “The level of overall violence, including attacks on and casualties among civilians, remains high; Iraq’s sectarian groups remain unreconciled; AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq] retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks; and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively. There have been modest improvements in economic output, budget execution, and government finances but fundamental structural problems continue to prevent sustained progress in economic growth and living conditions.” (National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07)
Independent reports show that Iraqi security forces are not capable of assuming security responsibility; sectarian influences and militia infiltration threaten to undermine effectiveness, force readiness has decreased under the surge strategy
NIE: Iraqi security forces remain dependent on U.S. troops. “[W]e judge that the ISF have not improved enough to conduct major operations independent of the Coalition on a sustained basis in multiple locations and that the ISF remain reliant on the Coalition for important aspects of logistics and combat support. …Militia and insurgent forces continue to undermine the reliability of some ISF units, and political interference in security operations continues to undermine Coalition and ISF efforts.” (National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07)
GAO: The capacity of the Iraqi army has declined under the surge strategy. “Instead of increasing, the number of Iraqi army units capable of independent operations has decreased from March 2007 to July 2007.” (GAO, 9/4/07)
Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq: Iraqi security forces are incapable of protecting Iraqi citizens from insurgent and sectarian violence, unable to defend against conventional military threats or secure Iraq’s borders.
· “The Ministry of Interior [MOI] is a ministry in name only. It is widely regarded as being dysfunctional and sectarian, and suffers from ineffective leadership. Such fundamental flaws present a serious obstacle to achieving the levels of readiness, capability, and effectiveness in police and border security forces that are essential for internal security and stability in Iraq.” According to the report “sectarianism and corruption are pervasive in the MOI and cripple the ministry’s ability to accomplish its mission to provide security for Iraqi citizens.”
· “The police are central to the long-term establishment of security and stability in Iraq. Today, the Iraqi Police Service is incapable of providing security at a level sufficient to protect Iraqi neighborhoods from insurgents and sectarian violence.”
· “The National Police have proven operationally ineffective. Sectarianism in its units undermines its ability to provide security; the force is no viable in its current form. The National Police should be disbanded and reorganized.”
· “Iraq’s borders are porous. The Department of Border Enforcement suffers from poor ministerial support from the MOI. Border forces often lack the equipment, infrastructure, and basic supplies to conduct their mission… Corruption and external influence and infiltration are widespread.”
(Report of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, 9/6/07)
Independent reports suggest that future prospects for moving forward with national reconciliation are not good
NIE: The already shaky Iraqi government is anticipated to grow more precarious in the coming months. “The IC [Intelligence Community] assesses that the Iraqi Government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months because of criticism by other members of the major Shia coalition (the Unified Iraqi Alliance, UIA), Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and other Sunni and Kurdish parties. Divisions between Maliki and the Sadrists have increased, and Shia factions have explored alternative coalitions aimed at constraining Maliki.” (National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07)
NIE: High levels of violence are likely to persist. “We assess, to the extent that Coalition forces continue to conduct robust counterinsurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), that Iraq’s security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi Government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance.” (National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07)
NIE: The growing displacement of Iraqis inside the country and to neighboring states, poses an increasing threat to regional security. “Population displacement resulting from sectarian violence continues, imposing burdens on provincial governments and some neighboring states and increasing the danger of destabilizing influences spreading across Iraq’s borders over the next six to 12 months.” (National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07)
GAO: Iraq’s government remains divided along sectarian lines. “Prospects for additional progress in enacting legislative benchmarks have been complicated by the withdrawal of 15 of 37 members of the Iraqi cabinet. According to an August 2007 U.S. interagency report, this boycott ends any claim by the Shi’ite dominated coalition to be a government of national unity and further undermines Iraq’s already faltering program of national reconciliation.” (GAO, 9/4/07)
Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq: Iraq’s security forces will remain dependent on U.S. forces for at least the next 12 to 18 months. “[The Iraqi Army and Special Forces] will not be ready to independently fulfill their security role within the next 12 to 18 months.” Further, the report states that the Iraqi Army “will continue to rely on Coalition support, including logistics, intelligence, fire support, equipment, training, and leadership development for the foreseeable future.” (Report of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, 9/6/07)