Congress report finds Iraq failing on goals
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraq has met only three out of 18 goals set by Washington for political and security progress, according to a draft of a key report being prepared for Congress, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The findings by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, are at odds with a more positive assessment the White House gave in July that Iraq had met eight out of 18 benchmarks, the newspaper said.
The report, which the Post described as "strikingly negative", is due to be delivered to Congress on Tuesday, ahead of a pivotal report on Iraq by the U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and ambassador Ryan Crocker due by September 15.
"While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," the draft obtained by the Post said.
U.S. President George W. Bush, under growing pressure to show progress in the unpopular four-year-old war or start bringing U.S. troops home, is urging Congress to give his "surge" strategy of adding troops in Baghdad more time.
Asked about the draft, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told the Post: "General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are there on the ground every day in Iraq, and it's important to wait to hear what they have to say."
"While we've all seen progress in some areas, especially on the security front, it's not surprising the GAO would make this assessment, given the difficult congressionally mandated measurement they had to follow," Johndroe said.
Legislation signed by Bush in May imposed a stricter standard on the GAO, requiring a success or fail judgment on whether each benchmark has been met, the Post said.
The draft judged that only one of eight political benchmarks had been met, while two security goals were achieved, the Post said. It found that two further benchmarks -- the formation of governmental regions and the allocation and expenditure of $10 billion (5 billion pounds) for reconstruction -- had only been "partially met."
The Post reported the GAO draft says that while there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq under the new security plan in recent months, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged.
The GAO report also finds that "the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved" and concludes, overall, that key legislation has not been passed and violence remains high.
The 69-page GAO draft was still undergoing review at the Defence Department, which may ask that parts of it be classified or request changes in its conclusions, the Post said.
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