Last November, a bipartisan majority of 79 Senators voted for a measure declaring 2006 “to be a period of significant transition for Iraq” and called on President Bush to put forward a strategy for “the successful completion of the mission in Iraq.” This mid-term assessment finds some signs of progress in key areas, including Iraq’s political transition, the training of Iraq’s security forces, and oil production. But this limited progress has taken place against the backdrop of a dramatically deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country as Iraq slipped deeper into a civil war.
Sectarian violence has increased and armed militias have grown stronger. As of the end of June, despite “Operation Together Forward,” a joint Iraqi-Coalition military operation to control the violence in Iraq’s capital city more than three years after the U.S.-led invasion, Baghdad’s security situation has seen little, if any, improvement. Violence continued to plague many major cities from Mosul in the north to Basra in the south, with the United Nations estimating that more than 14,000 Iraqis had been killed by the conflict in the first half of 2006.
In all key areas, substantial room for improvement exists:
- Security and Stability. The killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was a major achievement, but it has not quelled Iraq’s violence. Although the number of Iraqi security forces trained by the U.S.-led coalition continued to increase and is well above a quarter of a million, serious questions remain about their quality, professionalism, and their allegiance to the Iraqi government.
- Governance and Democracy. Iraq formed a new unity government after more than five months of deliberations following the December 2005 elections. During this period (January through June 2006), more than 350 American soldiers were killed in action and more than 2,400 wounded. This means that the United States lost the equivalent of five battalions worth of ground forces while Iraqi political leaders spent most of the time squabbling over forming a government. The formation of the Iraqi government was a positive step forward, but the new government has yet to demonstrate its relevance in the daily lives of many Iraqis by taking tangible steps to improve security and the quality of life. In addition, a political stalemate exists on revising the constitution and developing legislation to clarify vague provisions in the constitution narrowly approved in a popular referendum last October.
- Economic Reconstruction. U.S. grant assistance appropriated for Iraq’s reconstruction from 2003 to 2006 totaled approximately $30 billion, which is roughly the same amount spent in Germany from 1946 to 1952, adjusted for inflation, and double what the U.S. spent in Japan during the same six-year period. For all of this money, the reconstruction program has achieved mixed results. There has been some progress in building schools and improving Iraq’s health sector, but mismanagement and corruption in the reconstruction efforts have limited the overall impact of the project. Iraqis continue to suffer from double digit unemployment. Iraq’s oil production increased during the first six months of 2006, although it remained below pre-war levels by the end of June.
- Iraq’s Impact on U.S. National Security. The U.S. focus on Iraq has hampered its ability to address other threats, including the conflict on Israel’s borders, an Iranian nuclear research program, a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda challenging Afghanistan’s new government, North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, and a continued threat from global terrorist networks.
This mid-year assessment report by the Center for American Progress aims to fill gaps left unmet by status reports submitted by the Bush administration to Congress and the American public= More than three years after invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, the costs for America continue to grow – more than 2,500 soldiers killed and 18,000 wounded in action, more than $320 billion of U.S. taxpayer dollars spent, and the growing opportunity costs of insufficient action to address national security threats like Afghanistan, Lebanon, and the broader fight against global terror networks.
In November 2005, the Bush administration, responding to a demand from Congress, issued its National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. However, a recent study by nonpartisan government auditors in the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the Bush administration’s Iraq strategy lacked a clear plan that assigns responsibilities to agencies for implementing the strategy and does not fully outline the current and future costs of implementing the strategy.
At this midpoint in the year that was supposed to be the “period of significant transition for Iraq,” the Bush administration has not achieved demonstrable progress to making a transition in the U.S. mission in Iraq. Halfway through 2006, the Bush administration has not yet presented a clear strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq.
Read the full report: