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Three Years After Saddam: The Pros and Cons of Progress

Saturday, 08 April 2006 12:00 AM

Regardless of the many U.S. critics of the war in Iraq, the people of that country perceive real progress in the three years since their liberation.

Sunday, April 9 is the three-year anniversary of the day Saddam Hussein fled Baghdad and his statue was toppled – perhaps a critical day in the development of democracy in the Middle East.

Over the last six months, according to recent polling data, two-thirds of Iraqis surveyed have steadily expressed the belief that the Iraqi Security Forces are winning the battle against terrorism.

But with that positive note, comes a negative one in the critical battle for the minds and hearts of the Iraqi people.

When asked to describe those responsible for attacks against Iraqi civilians, only a small percentage chose terms such as "freedom fighter" or "patriot." Instead, the overwhelming majority in every region polled chose the terms "terrorist" and "criminal," terms that may have little distinction among the respondents.

However, when asked to describe those who attack

But with sectarian violence flaring across Iraq and charges that the media is focusing on the bloodshed and missing the progress, getting a real fix on Iraq may be as difficult a subject for Americans as enemy identification has proven for some Iraqis.

Those confused Americans apparently also include the lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who in an amendment to a block of funding for the war, tacked on a requirement for the administration to periodically report to them -- in detail -- on the sometimes shadowy and elusive progress being bought with the nation's blood and treasure.

Recently, the Pentagon issued its third, semi-regular report to Congress on the progress of the war.

The report, "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" is styled as "an attempt to lay down clear, measurable markers documenting a broader view of just how well the U.S. is doing across a range of sectors, from the development of the Iraqi security forces to the reconstruction of the country's infrastructure."

For sure, a copy of the report is hardly sitting worn and dog-eared on coffee tables around the country. Covering scores of pages and interlaced with graphs and charts, some conclusions as to the big picture jump forward:

The report perhaps predictably highlights the President's decreasing the number of combat brigades in Iraq from 17 to 15 -- a reduction of about 7,000 troops.

This decision was based on several indicators of progress but primarily the growing capability of Iraqi Security Forces, notes the document.

In the security environment in general, the framers of the report note that the single most important indicator of success in meeting security objectives is the failure of anti-Iraqi forces in their campaign to derail the political process and alienate the Iraqi people from democratic governance.

However, there is a down side as well.

As expected during this period, the total number of attacks against Iraqi and Coalition targets has risen. Attacks remain concentrated in four of Iraq's eighteen provinces, and eleven provinces averaged one or fewer attacks per day over the reporting period.

The complexity and effectiveness of these attacks range from a single insurgent executing an ineffective small arms attack to a coordinated attack of several dozen enemy fighters using different weapon systems. However, there have been only four of these more complex coordinated attacks in the last six months.

Over three quarters of all attacks result in no casualties or serious damage and the percentage of car bombs intercepted and defused is steadily increasing.

Terrorist attacks have failed to create and spread sectarian conflict, and polls of Iraqi perceptions continue to show the isolation of terrorists and foreign fighters from the Iraqi people.

According to the report, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior forces continue to progress in developing their capabilities and taking ownership of Iraqi security. Key measures of progress highlighted include:

There are 27 National Police Force battalions (formerly the Special Police Forces) and one Emergency Response Unit capable of combat operations, with 10 units assessed as being in the lead.

More than 82,000 police have been trained and equipped – an increase of over 13,000 since the last report. These police work alongside 38,000 other Ministry of Interior forces.

Overall, there are over 227,000 Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior forces trained and equipped for counterinsurgency operations – an increase of 18 percent since the October 2005 report.

In addition to the big picture, the full story of progress in Iraq cannot be fully captured without an understanding of the mundane military routine that every day relentlessly hammers away at the insurgents.

The Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq and Multinational Force Iraq Forces Press Service pumps out a steady grind of the slow history of small successes, day by day. For instance, for April 4, 2006, there were these releases (heavily edited here for the sake of brevity):

No injuries or damages were reported in any of these missions.

For sure, none of the pedestrian nuggets above found their way to front pages of newspapers or filled the screens of TV news reports.

Returning to the larger picture –

The report to Congress highlights progress in the political-economic-military strategy of isolating hard-core "rejectionists" and terrorists from the mainstream Sunni Arabs.

Some recent indicators of progress on this track include:

There are currently 800 judges in Iraq, including 300 investigative judges. These judges are now working and resolving cases under Iraqi law.

In 2003, approximately 4,000 felony cases were resolved in Iraqi courts. In 2004, they resolved more than twice that number. As of November 2005, the Iraqi courts were on track to resolve more than 10,000 felony cases in 2005.

The Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), a Coalition-created entity, is the only court in Iraq with national jurisdiction that tries defendants accused of terrorism and crimes against the Coalition, as well as other serious crimes.

In November 2004, the CCCI had capacity to conduct fewer than 10 trials and investigative hearings per month. In the first two weeks of September 2005 alone, the Court prosecuted more than 50 multi-defendant trials and conducted 100 investigative hearings.

The Court is now expanding its reach throughout Iraq with separate branches in local provinces. Twelve cities have sitting CCCI courts with a total of 57 CCCI judges nationwide.

U.S. Department of Justice advisors working through the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program have trained and mentored Iraqis at every level of the Ministry of Justice since the fall of the Ba'athist regime.

Negotiations are now underway among many parties and coalitions to ensure broad inclusion in the formation of the constitutionally elected new government.

The currency remains stable; foreign exchange reserves are well above targets; and substantial debt reduction is moving apace.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates real growth in Gross Domestic Product of 2.6 percent for 2005 and projects higher growth for the next two years. Annual inflation is expected to moderate from annual rates above 30 percent in 2004 and 2005.

In key sectors, however, attacks on infrastructure and maintenance problems continue to hamper progress in producing and exporting oil and in delivering reliable electricity, but the communications sector continues its rapid growth with a 40 percent increase in cell phone subscribers since the last report.

In November 2005, the World Bank approved its first loan to Iraq in 30 years. In December 2005, the International Monetary Fund approved Iraq's request for an economic reform program in the form of a Stand-By Arrangement.

Paris Club creditors continue to sign bilateral debt agreements with Iraq. As of January 2006, 13 out of 18 creditors have signed such agreements. As the first government is formed under the new constitution, increased international engagement, particularly on a bilateral basis, is anticipated.

Iraq is gaining wider support from Arab states as well. In November 2005, the Arab League hosted a meeting in Cairo to promote Iraqi national accord and the political process.

Many Arab countries publicly supported Iraq's constitutional referendum and recent election and called for the broad participation of all Iraqis in Iraq's political process.

The U.S., in conjunction with the Government of Iraq and international donors, continues to complete projects that are improving Iraqi oil, electricity, water, sewerage, and communications infrastructure.

The U.S. has also been instrumental in building the capacity of the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Iraq.

The bad news -- pressures from wages, pensions, and the growth of the security sector are raising government expenditures dramatically. The U.S. and other international advisors are working with the Government of Iraq to keep these pressures under control in order to maintain a stable economic environment.

Part of the solution to promote a sound economy is for the Iraqi government to reduce subsidies on fuel and, to some degree, electricity, water, and food.

On December 18, 2005, the Iraqi government began the first stage of price increases for gasoline, kerosene, and diesel fuel; the current plans call for the Iraqis to continue reducing these subsidies over the next few years until prices are in line with regional averages.

As part of a broad strategy to revitalize Iraq's private sector, the U.S. also continues to provide micro-credit to emerging Iraqi entrepreneurs and small- and medium-enterprise loans for Iraqi businesses.

Over 20,000 microfinance loans with a value of $44 million have been disbursed to small entrepreneurs creating an estimated 30,000 jobs. Over 2,400 businessmen and women have taken advantage of training programs for small and medium sized enterprises.

Increased budgets, personnel, and authority are being directed towards the organizations that investigate corruption: the Board of Supreme Audit, the Inspectors General of the ministries, and the Commission of Public Integrity.

Iraq continues to make progress reintegrating into the world economy. The Government of Iraq is receiving substantial reconstruction grants and loans from the U.S. and other foreign donors.

Of the $13.5 billion pledged by donors other than the U.S. at the 2003 Madrid conference, $3.2 billion has been disbursed as of December 2005.

As of the end of January, thirty-seven Iraqi Army battalions now control their own battle space. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are responsible for security in roughly 460 square miles of Baghdad and more than 11,600 square miles in other provinces of Iraq, an increase of over 4,000 square miles since the last report.

Over the last three months, the number of ISF independent operations exceeded the number of Coalition force independent operations. ISF independent operations increased by 24 percent since May 2005.

Ministry of Defense (MOD) forces consist of Army (including Special Forces), Air Force, and Navy (including Marines) personnel. Since the October report, the total number of MOD personnel trained and equipped surpassed 100,000.

The Iraqi Armed Forces are on track to achieve a projected end-strength of approximately 131,000 soldiers by mid-2006.

The MOD is making a focused effort to recruit personnel from across the spectrum of Iraqi society, in accordance with the new Iraqi Constitution that guarantees equal opportunities for all Iraqis. A lack of recruiting centers in largely Sunni areas has been mitigated by mobile recruiting missions throughout areas such as the Euphrates River Valley.

Equipping of the MOD forces has continued this quarter with the procurement and delivery of nearly 9,000 AK-47 rifles, almost 1,800 pistols, more than 4,700 light and medium machine guns, and over 750 light and medium vehicles. Individual soldiers were issued nearly 15,000 sets of body armor and over 9,000 Kevlar helmets.

The number of Iraqi Army units in the lead continued to grow since October, with 37 battalions now controlling their own battle space.

The Iraqi Highway Patrol (IHP) is a nation-wide force responsible for securing Iraq's highway system, including the performance of armed escort and law enforcement duties. Almost 1,800 IHP personnel have been trained and equipped, an increase of 500 since the last report.

However, on the bad news front, distribution of supplies and equipment, as well as additional logistical and pay issues, continue to challenge the effectiveness of the IHP.

The National Police Forces (formerly known as the Special Police Forces) are highly trained units comprised of three separate organizations: the Police Commandos (providing light infantry for counter-insurgency operations), the Public Order Police (specializing in re-establishing order in high-risk environments), and the Mechanized Police (providing light armor for counterinsurgency operations).

The 27 National Police battalions and one Emergency Response Unit have continued to improve their capabilities as a national, rapid-response force for countering armed insurgency, large-scale disobedience, and riots and conducting operations throughout Iraq's most contentious areas. They also provided critical security during the referendum and general election.

The Police Commandos consist of nearly 9,000 trained and equipped personnel. The Government of Iraq has authorized a total force of more than 11,800 Commandos, which Are slated to be trained and equipped by December 2006.

Almost 1,500 Mechanized Police have been trained and equipped. This is the target force structure authorized by the Government of Iraq.

Almost 8,100 Public Order Police have been trained and equipped, an increase of over 1,000 since the last report. The Government of Iraq has authorized a total force of approximately 10,600 Public Order Police.


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Regardless of the many U.S. critics of the war in Iraq, the people of that country perceive real progress in the three years since their liberation. Sunday, April 9 is the three-year anniversary of the day Saddam Hussein fled Baghdad and his statue was toppled - perhaps...
Saturday, 08 April 2006 12:00 AM
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