Yesterday, administration officials were spinning the announcement that U.K. troops would be withdrawing from Iraq as a sign of progress. “I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well,” Vice President Cheney told ABC News. Tony Snow added: “The fact that [the British] have made some progress on the ground is going to enable them to move some of the forces out, and that’s ultimately the kind of thing that we want to be able to see throughout Iraq.”
In a “Setting the Record Straight” release, the White House claimed the British pulled their troops “based on the conditions on the ground.” But the Los Angeles Times reports that the Pentagon’s latest quarterly report on Iraq contradicts these claims:
[T]he Pentagon, in its most recent quarterly report to Congress, listed Basra as one of five cities outside Baghdad where violence remained “significant,” and said the region was one of only two “not ready for transition” to Iraqi authorities.
Once a promising beacon, Basra suffers from sectarian violence as well as Shiite militia clashes over oil smuggling. Ferocious street battles have broken out between rival Shiite Muslim groups in provincial capitals such as Samawah, Kut and Diwaniya in the last year.
Of the 18 Iraqi provinces, according to the Pentagon report, Anbar and Basra were the only provinces classified as “Not Ready For Transition” to Iraqi control: