Nonpartisan government auditors say Bush Iraq strategy 'unclear'

Michael Roston
Published: Wednesday July 12, 2006

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The nonpartisan investigative wing of the US Congress found President George W. Bush's strategy for victory in Iraq to be "unclear," RAW STORY has learned.

The Government Accountability Office issued a report on Tuesdsay entitled "Rebulding Iraq - More Comprehensive National Strategy Needed to Help Achieve U.S. Goals." The GAO's investigation received scant media attention, garnering write ups only in the Washington Times and Agence France Presse.

The report details the findings of the GAO's investigation of the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, a document unveiled by President Bush in a November 30, 2005 speech. "I urge all Americans to read it," President Bush said of the strategy at the time.

Generally, the GAO found that the Bush strategy "incorporates the same desired end-state for U.S. operations in Iraq that first was established by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in 2003: a peaceful, united, stable, secure Iraq, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism. Since then, however, the strategy’s underlying security, reconstruction, and economic assumptions have changed in response to changing circumstances.... As a result, it is unclear how the United States will achieve its desired end-state in Iraq given these changes in assumptions and circumstances."

At a specific level, GAO first found that the Bush plan "assumed that Iraq would have a permissive security environment" which never materialized. The danger form the insurgency in particular "threatens to undermine the development of effective Iraqi governmental institutions."

Second, while the US believed it would be able to rebuild Iraq, "the U.S. efforts have yet to restore Iraq’s essential services to prewar levels, and efforts to achieve these goals have been hindered by security, management, and maintenance challenges." As a result, GAO reported, a poll conducted by the International Republican Institute in March 2006 found that over half of the Iraqi people "thought Iraq was heading in the wrong direction. Moreover, the poll reports that over the last year, growing numbers believe that the security situation, the provision of electricity, the prevalence of corruption, and the state of the economy worsened."

The agency also sees that the US "assumed that the Iraqis and the international community would help finance Iraq’s developmental needs." But, "these expectations have not yet been met, and Iraq’s estimated future reconstruction needs vastly exceed what has been offered to date."

GAO also found shortcomings in American plans to pay for and implement reconstruction activities. Particularly, they found that "neither DOD nor Congress can reliably determine the cost of the war, nor do they have details on how the appropriated funds are being spent or historical data useful in considering future funding needs," and that "little guidance is provided to assist implementing agencies in resolving conflicts among themselves, as well as with other entities. In our prior work, we found that delays in reconstruction efforts sometimes resulted from lack of agreement among U.S. agencies, contractors, and Iraqi authorities about the scope and schedule for the work to be performed."

While the State Department offered some feedback to the auditors that is incorporated within the report, the Defense Department deferred comment to the White House's National Security Council. GAO reported that, "We did not receive oral or written comments from the NSC in response to our request."

The results of the report were revealed at a hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform's Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations

Rep. Christopher Shays, the Republican Chairman of the Subcommittee that heard testimony on the report, remarked in a prepared statement, "I am deeply concerned we will lose the war in Iraq here at home."