War on Terrorism

Friday, June 15, 2007

Too Early to Discern Trends in Iraq, U.S. Officials Say

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

June 14, 2007 – It is too early to discern trends out of the U.S. troop "surge" as part of the Baghdad security plan, defense officials said here today. Speaking on background, the officials discussed the quarterly report to Congress, titled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq."

The report was released yesterday, but the cut-off for data in the report was May 14. "It is too early to assess the impact of the new way forward," a senior defense official said.

The final U.S. brigade combat team does not become operational until this week, the official said. The State Department has set up the enhanced provincial reconstruction teams, and the Iraqi government itself is gaining more confidence as it moves forward. All these are indicators, but need time to mature, the official said.

The official said there was some progress from February to May. There has been a change in the character of attacks, and there has been some economic progress. "But at the same time, I think it is important to recognize that oil production -- the principle economic driver in Iraq -- remained at the same levels as in 2006, as did electrical generation," the official said.

On the political front, few legislative initiatives have been completed in the reporting period, but some work has been done to move initiatives forward, the official said.

Overall, both positive and negative indicators are in the report, the official said.

Some of the data was expected, officials said. More Americans are in Baghdad, and they are in more neighborhoods. The number of attacks against U.S. forces is up, as are U.S. casualties, a senior Joint Staff official said. Also U.S. and Iraqi security forces concentrated on Baghdad and its surroundings, and there was a decrease in sectarian killings in the area, the official said. "This was expected, but there is nothing in this report that suggests a sustained trend," the official said.

Both officials stressed the need for political progress and said the Iraqi legislature has not made the progress needed. "We believe that the Iraqi government has yet to take advantage of the time and space that has been provided for them to move forward on these key reconciliation issues," the senior defense official said. "We would have expected, hoped and liked to have seen a hydrocarbons law being implemented."

U.S. officials would have liked a De-Baathification law passed and agreement on provincial elections. "The entire purpose of the surge was to improve the security situation so that there could be movement in reconciliation initiatives," the official said.

The next quarterly report will contain data collected through August, officials said. "We'll have a better idea of where our mission in Iraq stands then," the official said.

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