By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Iraq has met all but three of 18 original benchmarks set by Congress last year to measure security, political and economic progress, according to a report by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The embassy's evaluation, compiled in May, contrasts sharply with other recent assessments that Iraq has failed to achieve many of the goals that the Baghdad government and President Bush said would be reached by the end of 2007. A report by the Government Accountability Office, released last week, cited little improvement in the political and economic spheres and noted continuing military problems despite a significant decline in overall violence.
The embassy judged that the only remaining shortfalls were the Baghdad government's failure to enact and implement laws governing the oil industry and the disarmament of militia and insurgent groups, and continuing problems with the professionalism of the Iraqi police. All other goals -- including preparations for upcoming elections, reform of de-Baathification and disarmament laws, progress on enacting and spending Iraq's budget, and the capabilities of the Iraqi army -- were rated "satisfactory."
Congress drew up the list of 18 benchmarks early last year, based on pledges by the administration and Baghdad, and passed legislation requiring progress reports. In congressional testimony last September, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told lawmakers that about half the goals had been met.
The original legislation required no reports beyond the September testimony. More recently, the White House has maintained that the benchmarks are no longer a useful measurement of Iraq's progress. But the embassy prepared the new assessment in response to a request by Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) to update the benchmarks.
A copy of the nine-page document, labeled "Sensitive but Unclassified," was obtained yesterday by The Washington Post.
Since the September assessment, the report notes, the Iraqi parliament has passed significant legislation on de-Baathification reform, the division of powers between the central and provincial governments, and amnesty for former insurgents. It grades progress in all of those areas as newly "satisfactory" even as it acknowledges that the laws in most cases have been implemented slowly, if at all. Congress mandated that Iraq both "enact and implement" the benchmark laws.
The embassy cited progress toward increasing the number of Iraqi security force units capable of independent operations. Although it says that the overall number of units that can operate independently has increased "marginally," it concludes that "70% of all formed units can now conduct [counter-insurgency] operations with or without Coalition support."
That is the same percentage given in a Pentagon update released last week. The GAO report said 10 percent of Iraqi units had reached full operational readiness.