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The GAO Iraq report (Update)
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, August 30, 2007

The first of the Congressionally mandated reports is going through what appears to be its final staffing prior to being released. It is due in the first part of September. Based on the Washington Post story, which is all I have to go on, it is "strikingly negative" with the GAO, at least in the draft, saying that only 3 of the 18 benchmarks have been met.

A couple of points. As stated, the GAO draft is being staffed. That means it is being run through the various agencies and their staffs for comment. It is at this point that, say, the Department of Defense, would note anything with which they disagree or find to be incorrect and provide supporting documentation for their point of view. The Post mentions this:
The 69-page draft, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is still undergoing review at the Defense Department, which may ask that parts of it be classified or request changes in its conclusions. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, normally submits its draft reports to relevant agencies for comment but makes its own final judgments.
But then says:
The person who provided the draft report to The Post said it was being conveyed from a government official who feared that its pessimistic conclusions would be watered down in the final version — as some officials have said happened with security judgments in this month's National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.
Well gee, what if the "pessimistic conclusions" are wrong and the agencies in question can provide information, data and facts which point that out? Wouldn't we want that to happen? Or are we more committed to a "pessimistic conclusion" than a truthful assessment? The Post has no comment on that.

Secondly, this report ends in July. So it naturally doesn't include the recent agreement among key Iraqi political leaders concerning reconciliation and oil revenue sharing. Obviously, as I pointed out then, to this point it is still only a promise and I can't dispute the line of argument that says it may all be for show to influence Congress, because I don't know. But it certainly seems a prelude to some possible progress on the benchmarks once the Iraqi legislature reconvenes.

Oh and as an aside, the Post claims:
Congress requested the GAO report, along with an assessment of the Iraqi security forces by an independent commission headed by retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, to provide a basis for comparison with the administration's scorecard. The Jones report is also scheduled for delivery next week.
I don't think that is true. The mandate says Gen. Jones report is due 120 days after the passage of the law and the law was passed May 25th. I believe that puts the due date of the Jones report at the latter part of September, not next week.

Another interesting point to keep in mind is the fact that the Congress placed a stricter standard on the GAO than it did on the President's report.
The May legislation imposed a stricter standard on the GAO, requiring an up-or-down judgment on whether each benchmark has been met. On that basis, the GAO draft says that three of the benchmarks have been met while 13 have not. Despite its strict mandate, the GAO draft concludes that two benchmarks — the formation of governmental regions and the allocation and expenditure of $10 billion for reconstruction — have been "partially met." Little of the allocated money, it says, has been spent.

One of eight political benchmarks — the protection of the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature — has been achieved, according to the draft. On the others, including legislation on constitutional reform, new oil laws and de-Baathification, it assesses failure.
So the GAO has to give the benchmark an 'up or down'. It can't say "partially met" or "progress is being made" etc.

That's not to excuse the status they have given the particular benchmarks, but instead to point out that they were allowed no middle ground.

BTW, I'm not sure - and I'm going to have to look into this - what $10 billion dollars for reconstruction they're talking about. I just finished a series of blogger roundtable talks with 4 different PRT leaders (I'll have a separate post on them later), each of whom talked about how this year they had successfully seen their particular provincial government pass (some for the first time) a capital budget, receive funds and begin major reconstruction projects. Next month they begin the '08 budget process. This budgetary process is relatively new and just now, again according to these 4 PRT leaders, beginning to take off.

Addressing security:
Iraqi security forces are also assessed more severely in the GAO study than in the administration's July report. Although the White House found satisfactory progress toward the goal of deploying three Iraqi army brigades in Baghdad, the GAO disagrees, citing "performance problems" in some units. "Some army units sent to Baghdad have mixed loyalties, and some have had ties to Shiia militias making it difficult to target Shiia extremist networks," it says.
Uh, yeah, no surprise there. Again, that's an ongoing situation of which everyone is well aware. I'm not sure what number "some" encompasses, but as I've mentioned before, the National Police have a problem, 14,000 of them have been purged for that very reason, and if I'm not mistaken, two of the brigades in Baghdad are NP brigades. So keep that in mind when reports like this only refer to "brigades". The Iraqi Army is not the same as the National Police.
The GAO draft also says that the number of Iraqi army units capable of operating independently declined from 10 in March to six last month. The July White House report mentioned a "slight" decline in capable Iraqi units, without providing any numbers. The GAO also says, as did the White House in July, that the Iraqi government has intervened in military activities for political reasons, "resulting in some operations being based on sectarian interests." But its discussion of Iraqi security forces is often veiled, as when it states that the determination that the security forces benchmark was not met "was based largely on classified information."
This is really an easy one, although it continues to be a persistent problem. Logistics. Until a battalion can support itself logistically, it is not deemed capable of "operating independently". Until the brigades and divisons of he ISF have reliable logistics, few if any battalions are going to be designated as able to "operate independently". But note, for most it has nothing to do with their ability to fight or their loyalty, etc.

The problem is we seem not to be making much headway in logistics department, as this remains a problem we've been talking about for over a year with very little in the way of progress to report. I'll be on a blogger roundtable call with LTG James M. Dubik tomorrow. He's the Commanding General of the Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq, and I plan to ask him about both the National Police and the problems that are preventing the logistics piece necessary to allow the ISF to operate independently from standing up. I have a feeling, though, that I know what he's going to say:
But Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik, who in June became the commander of the U.S. troops training and advising Iraqi army and police units, struck a more somber note yesterday in a news conference in Baghdad. "The problems that the military commanders and the minister of defense have here in generating the Iraqi army are very significant, and they shouldn't be taken lightly," he said.
By the way, when he says "generating the Iraqi Army", he's talking about standing up and training more units and, undoubtedly, the logistics piece.

But you need to understand something about all of this. For instance:
The description of the Iraqi military's shortcomings contrasts with comments from many senior U.S. commanders who say that they are pleased with its progress. "Although we still have a ways to go, Iraqi security forces are making significant, tangible improvements," Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said earlier this month.
That statement doesn't contradict anything else said (although the Post story seems to imply it does). What Odierno is talking about is their operational capability. Their ability to fight. And every commander I've talked to in Iraq has said the same thing - the Iraqi military is a far better organization now than it was last year and they are indeed showing "significant, tangible improvements". Don't forget, Odierno is the commander of the fight and he's talking about the Iraqi Army's ability to fight. Dubik is working with the National Police and in other areas of training. They aren't the same function.

One last point to make which Keith from Indy reminds me about in the comments. Well here, let him tell you:
Well, one report (GAO) is about whether we’ve completed the mission, and the others, whether we are making progress towards completing the mission.
That's a good point to keep in mind when reviewing the report and the subsequent reports.

UPDATE: The DoD is apparently, and not unexpectedly, disputing some of the GAO's conclusions:
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said that after reviewing a draft of the Government Accountability Office report - which has not yet been made public - policy officials "made some factual corrections" and "offered some suggestions on a few of the actual grades" assigned by the GAO.


"We have provided the GAO with information which we believe will lead them to conclude that a few of the benchmark grades should be upgraded from `not met' to `met,'" Morrell said. He declined to elaborate or to spell out which of the benchmark grades the Pentagon was disputing.
Again, part of the staffing process. The onus, of course, is on DoD to make their case.

The White House is also adding their 2 cents worth into the discussion and pointing out something I mentioned above:
At the White House, officials argued that the GAO report, which was required by legislation President Bush signed last spring, was unrealistic because it assigned "pass or fail" grades to each benchmark, rather than assessing whether the Iraqis have made progress toward reaching the benchmark goals.

"A bar was set so high, that it was almost not to be able to be met," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said. "On the other hand, one of the things it does not take into account, which is not on the benchmark list, is the cooperation of the Sunni tribes, who have decided to fight back against al-Qaida."

The administration said it agreed that Iraq had not reached the objectives.

"I think we have said they have not met the benchmarks," Perino said. "I don't see how it would be news for them to come out today and say they have not met benchmarks. We have said that."
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Well, one report (GOA) is about whether we’ve completed the mission, and the others, whether we are making progress towards completing the mission.

Of course, I wont expect that kind of context from those who have an invested interest in portraying Iraq as a failure.
Written By: Keith_Indy
Well, one report (GAO) is about whether we’ve completed the mission, and the others, whether we are making progress towards completing the mission.
Good point.
Of course, I wont expect that kind of context from those who have an invested interest in portraying Iraq as a failure.
It’s really going to be interesting to see how all of this is "interpreted" isn’t it?
Written By: McQ
Interesting but predictable. Each side will high lite the select portions of the various reports that support their arguments. (And I’ll include myself in that statement.) And we’ll have yet another toss-up of conflicting visions and talking past each other. I think, most people who’ve made up their mind, aren’t going to change their mind anytime soon.

The interesting thing for me is that if the Democrats held themselves to the same standards, they should have all resigned out of disgrace for failing to meet their goals by now.

We expect Iraqis to govern themselves with a new system of government, on an artificial timetable, mandated by us. Here, we’ve had 2 centuries plus of working out "democracy," and we still haven’t perfected it yet. In fact, many would argue that we’ve slid downhill, on some points, from any particular time.
Written By: Keith_Indy
I swear to god... When I become President, I’ll issue standing orders that anyone who leaks a draft of a document scheduled for release, or anyone who leaks about a clasified report/document, be shot in the god damn head...
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Iraq as a Baseball Game with the announcers from the Left:
"And here we are at the end of the 5th Inning of the game between the home team Insurgents and the visiting Troops. It has been a pitcher’s duel so far and the Insurgents are way ahead with the score 0-0. Even though player after player for the Insurgents have been taken off the field on stretcher, this score indicates the Troops are taking a real drubbing and it is amazing they can even bear to take the field each inning."

I will leave it up to the resident lefty trolls to replay the announcers from the right.
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Scott, as VP I can promise my wholehearted support for your directives.

Shooting may be a litte to hasty though...

perhaps you would consider re-instituting hanging, drawing, and quartering.
Written By: looker
URL: http://

Nope. One round, through the temple. This crap has gone on long enough. Time to plug a few leaks.
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
You’re too kind! This sort of behavior calls for a slow, thoughtful method of demonstrating displeasure and dispensing justice.

Though as Shaw observed, we’re merely establishing the price.

Written By: looker
URL: http://
You’re too kind! This sort of behavior calls for a slow, thoughtful method of demonstrating displeasure and dispensing justice.

Though as Shaw observed, we’re merely establishing the price.

Written By: looker
URL: http://
Iraq as a Baseball Game with the announcers from the Left:
Or, as a New England Patriot face, it is as a football game between NE and Indy (sorry folks - in this example, Indy is the bad guy)

I believe it was the 2003 season - AFC Championship game. All the buildup was ’Peyton, peyton, peyton...’. The game starts, and at half time, NE is up by 21, Peyton has been sacked 6 times, turned the ball over four times... and the announcer starts the second half with ’well folks, NE better watch out now cuz Peyton is MAD!!!’

There I sat, dumbfounded that someone could be so out of touch with what was happening. It was very late in the 4th quarter before the tone changed to - ’hey, how’ bout them patriots!’

Same damn thing going on with the reporting from Iraq. IMHO.
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
Yeah, and maybe if the Pats didn’t have to rely on tricks like flooding the field several days in advance, people would have more respect for them... ;)

One point I just thought of, why are they "grading" Iraq on a Pass/Fail system?

Seems, to me that is the one method to ensure the worst possible picture.

Even Pass/Fail/Incomplete isn’t contextual enough to say, we’re doing good in some areas, and need improvement in others.
Written By: Keith_Indy

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