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Monday, September 27, 2004

"It's getting worse"

Is the situation in Iraq improving?

To many, the answer to that question seems obvious. However, the President has been spouting a lot of optimism lately.

The US Agency for International Development's contract security firm concludes that the President is wrong. This was in Sunday's Washington Post:
A sampling of daily reports produced during that period by Kroll Security International for the U.S. Agency for International Development shows that such attacks typically number about 70 each day. In contrast, 40 to 50 hostile incidents occurred daily during the weeks preceding the handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government on June 28, according to military officials.

Reports covering seven days in a recent 10-day period depict a nation racked by all manner of insurgent violence, from complex ambushes involving 30 guerrillas north of Baghdad on Monday to children tossing molotov cocktails at a U.S. Army patrol in the capital's Sadr City slum on Wednesday. On maps included in the reports, red circles denoting attacks surround nearly every major city in central, western and northern Iraq, except for Kurdish-controlled areas in the far north. Cities in the Shiite Muslim-dominated south, including several that had undergone a period of relative calm in recent months, also have been hit with near-daily attacks.

In number and scope, the attacks compiled in the Kroll reports suggest a broad and intensifying campaign of insurgent violence that contrasts sharply with assessments by Bush administration officials and Iraq's interim prime minister that the instability is contained to small pockets of the country.
AID, by the way, is a key US foreign assistance agency and thus has to take into account security-on-the-ground in order to make decisions about helping Iraqis.

Though Iraqi PM Allawi claimed last week that all but 3 provinces are relatively safe, the Kroll report showed that the majority of attacks in the last 2 weeks occurred outside those areas. And the attacks target Iraqi civilians, foreign civilians (including aid workers), other Arabs, as well as US and Iraqi security forces. Anyone, really.

But then, have no fear...democracy is on the way, isn't it? Well, administration officials (including Defense Secretary Rumsfeld) are now talking about partial elections and the UN currently has only 30 to 35 people in the country to set them up. Voter registration has not yet started, in a nation of 25.4 million people. Only a tiny portion of US reconstruction money set aside for establishing democratic elections has been spent.

Indeed, the factual reality in Iraq really is quite a bit different than the President has been saying and implying. See this Reuters report for a variety of challenges of the President's version of events:
[Bush] said nearly 100,000 "fully trained and equipped" Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel are already at work, and that would rise to 125,000 by the end of this year.

...[Pentagon] documents show that of the nearly 90,000 currently in the police force, only 8,169 have had the full eight-week academy training. Another 46,176 are listed as "untrained," and it will be July 2006 before the administration reaches its new goal of a 135,000-strong, fully trained police force.

Six Army battalions have had "initial training," while 57 National Guard battalions, 896 soldiers in each, are still being recruited or "awaiting equipment." Just eight Guard battalions have reached "initial (operating) capability," and the Pentagon acknowledged the Guard's performance has been "uneven."

Training has yet to begin for the 4,800-man civil intervention force, which will help counter a deadly insurgency. And none of the 18,000 border enforcement guards have received any centralized training to date, despite earlier claims they had, according to Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

They estimated that 22,700 Iraqi personnel have received enough basic training to make them "minimally effective at their tasks," in contrast to the 100,000 figure cited by Bush...

The status of election planning in Iraq is also in question. Of the $232 million in Iraqi funds set aside for the Iraqi electoral commission, it has received a mere $7 million, according to House Appropriations Committee staff.
Well, that pretty much trashes the President's version, doesn't it? The fulcrum has much more.

Want a punchline for all of this? Secretary of State Colin Powell provided it just yesterday:
Powell, in an interview on ABC's "This Week," acknowledged that violence by insurgents is worsening and traced it to the upcoming elections.

"They do not want the Iraqi people to vote for their own leaders in a free, democratic election," Powell said of the insurgency. "And because it's getting worse, we will have to increase our efforts to defeat it, not walk away and pray and hope for something else to happen."
"It's getting worse."

Pssst, Kerry campaign, use that one.

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