The long-awaited first in a series of (predictable) September benchmarks paints a disappointing but not surprising picture of Bush-supported Iraqi government.
The Iraqi government has failed to meet 11 of the 18 political, economic and security benchmarks it set for itself, and violence remains high despite the U.S. troop surge, the Government Accountability Office reported today.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Comptroller General David M. Walker, who heads the GAO, painted a mostly grim portrait of the Iraqi government's progress ahead of a crucial report due to be presented next week by the top U.S. military commander and the U.S. ambassador in Iraq.
"The government is dysfunctional," Walker told the panel in response to a question. He noted that 15 of the 37 ministers in the cabinet of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have withdrawn their support for him and that there are "significant" problems with the capabilities of remaining ministries.
Formally presenting a GAO report that Congress requested on the benchmarks, Walker said the Iraqi government has met three of the 18, partially met four and failed to meet 11. The benchmarks, based on commitments the Maliki government made in June 2006, were inserted in U.S. legislation authorizing emergency war funding. Under the legislation, the administration must report on progress in achieving them.
As could only be expected of the Bush administration, the White House has criticized the GAO report.
General Petraeus, the leading commander in Iraq, is due to release an even more awaited report later this month — 10 September — outlining the military situation in Iraq following the thus-failed 'surge'. (If need some ways to not think about the Petraeus report, see The Daily Dish.) No matter what the report says, the reaction to it is pretty predictable: 'Why are we fighting this war?', 'How can there be progress when there's failure?' — rhetorical questions abound. I doubt the Senate will ask too many meaningful questions; the Republicans will, for the most part, try to make the war sound a bit cheerier than the Democrats and the Democrats will fill their quota of empty emotional blather.
How do you solve a problem like Iraq? Withdrawal and the country descends into total proxy wars and anarchic chaos; stay and the extremists have a rallying cry against the 'Western occupiers'. Withdrawal equals more terrorism; staying equals more terrorism. Hmm, I'll leave the decision to the highly-competent policymakers on Capitol Hill (*cough*). Or there could be an international force and a massive rebuilding and political reconciliation program that include all major international actors and Iraq's neighbors...
Well, you know some superficial, perceived, or rhetorical policy shift is being planned in the West Wing when President George W. Bush makes his third ever visit to Iraq.