Tonight in his prime time address, President Bush announced that he plans to withdraw approximately 23,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by mid-July, returning the force to pre-surge levels and “leaving about 137,000 U.S. troops in place.” He claimed that because of his escalation’s “success” on the ground, troops can now be drawn down:
Iraqi forces are receiving increased cooperation from local populations. And this is improving their ability to hold areas that have been cleared.Because of this success, General Petraeus believes we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces.
Yet as White House reports show, this “success” is nothing but rhetoric. In July, the White House released its “Initial Benchmark Assessment Report” claiming that the Iraqi government has “shown satisfactory performance so far on 8 of the 18 benchmarks.”
As the National Security Network pointed out, even the “satisfactory” benchmarks demonstrated “minimal progress, not achievement” and “others ha[d] been achieved on the surface, but fail[ed] to accomplish the overall purpose of the specific measurement.”
A new White House report to be released tomorrow largely mirrors the gloomy July conclusions. The new report shows that the Iraqi government has shown “positive movement on only one of the benchmarks.” The AP reports that the new White House analysis will cite unsatisfactory progress on issues such as:
-Enacting legislation to formally distribute oil resources equally among Iraqis without regard to their sect or ethnicity.
-Ensuring that the Iraqi security forces are providing evenhanded enforcement of the law.
-Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently.
-Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi security forces.
Recently, the Bush administration has attempted to distance itself from the benchmarks framework. Earlier this week, outgoing White House Press Secretary Tony Snow claimed that they were “something that Congress wanted to use as a metric.” Actually, as The New York Times notes, it was “the White House and the Iraqi government, not Congress, that first proposed the benchmarks for Iraq that are now producing failing grades.”