By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
June 13, 2007 – It's still too early to assess the impact of the new strategy in Iraq, but more progress is expected as additional troops come on line to boost security in Baghdad, according to the latest quarterly report to Congress, released today. The June 2007 report, "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq," assesses trends in terms of the security environment, political process, economic activity and development of Iraqi security forces.
The report measures both progress and setbacks between mid-February and mid-May. It's the first report for which the entire period took place under the new strategy for Iraq that President Bush announced in January. It notes continued momentum in building Iraq's security forces, which now number 347,000, up almost 18,000 since the last quarterly report, released in March.
In addition, nine Iraqi divisions, 31 brigades, and 95 battalions are in the lead or operating independently in their areas, the report notes. That's an increase of one division headquarters and two battalions since the last report.
These troops, along with coalition forces, have increased force levels and instituted new security measures to protect the population, the report notes. Four additional U.S. brigade combat teams are in place in Baghdad, and a fifth team is expected to be fully operational by the month's end.
Meanwhile, three additional Iraqi brigades completed 90-day deployments in Baghdad, and one has been extended until mid-summer. More Iraqi brigades are on alert and are moving to support operations in the capital, according to the report.
Despite these advances, additional forces are encountering heavy resistance as they operate in areas where they hadn't previously had a large presence, the report recognizes. Although civilian murders and sectarian violence in Baghdad dropped 45 percent early during the reporting period, that trend didn't continue through the rest of the period.
Of particular concern is the rise of high-profile attacks and expanded use of explosively formed projectiles, or EFPs, the report notes. These shaped charges can pierce armored vehicles.
On the political front, the report recognizes the Iraqi government's continued commitment to political, economic and military steps to further reconciliation between competing factions. It also cites increased efforts to help them advance these efforts. Yet the report notes that few key legislative or reconciliation actions were completed during the reporting period.
Meanwhile, oil production and crude-oil exports remain below projected targets -- the result, the report says, of poor infrastructure and inadequate security. Additional efforts will be needed to build capacity of Iraqi ministries and provinces to support economic development, it notes.
"Overall, it is too early to assess the impact of the new approach (to Iraq)," the report concludes. "Progress will depend on Iraqi follow-through on their commitments made as part of the new approach."
Insurgents, militia and terrorists working to disrupt reconciliation will be the biggest challenge to the Iraqi government's ability to fulfill its commitments, the report says.
The latest quarterly progress report is the eighth to date. It was submitted to Congress for review under terms of the 2007 Department of Defense Appropriations Act.
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