Baghdad ‘failing to follow through on promises’
By Andrew Ward and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington and Steve Negus, Iraq correspondent
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: July 12 2007 21:36 | Last updated: July 12 2007 21:36
When President George W. Bush announced plans in January to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Iraq, he warned that “America’s commitment is not open-ended”.
“If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people – and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people,” he said.
Six months later, the Bush administration issued an interim progress report yesterday indicating that the Iraqi government had failed to heed his warning.
The report declared unsatisfactory progress towards all the political targets set for the government of Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister. But Mr Bush pleaded with Congress to give his strategy and the Iraqi government more time.
“The Iraqi government has not met a single political benchmark in its entirety,” said Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader.
Thursday’s report came amid a fresh push by the Democratic-controlled Congress to end the war, with a growing number of Republicans adding their voices to calls for a change of strategy.
Democrats have proposed legislation that would force Mr Bush to start withdrawing troops within four months and end combat operations by next April. Congress agreed in May to continue funding the war until the autumn but insisted that Mr Bush issue reports in July and September measuring progress.
While acknowledging the lack of progress towards political goals, Mr Bush said Thursday’s report did show signs of success on the security front.
“Our strategy is built on the premise that progress on security will pave the way for political progress,” he said.
“The real debate over Iraq is between those who think the fight is lost or not worth the cost and those who believe the fight can be won and that, as difficult as the fight is, the costs of defeat would be far higher.”
Hoshiar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, told the FT that the report was “balanced and sober”.
Mr Zebari said his government would make more progress by September when General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, will report back to Congress on the troop surge.
“We have two months of time, and I think there will be some more progress on the political side,” Mr Zebari said.
Some Iraqis raised concerns that growing pressure from Washington would make it more difficult for the Iraqi government to pass legislation, including measures to allow former Ba’ath party members to hold government jobs, and to ensure the equitable distribution of oil revenues to all Iraqis.
The report noted that Iraq’s reconciliation process could be helped by a “general amnesty” for insurgents that had fought against the Iraqi government. But it concluded that the conditions were not ripe for such efforts.
The report also concluded that little progress was being made in disarming sectarian militias.
Democrats also seized on reports this week that the US intelligence community was alarmed by the resurgence in the al-Qaeda network in Pakistan and elsewhere.
“While Osama bin Laden is operating freely, we understand, on the Afghan-Pakistan border, the president wants to keep our troops in an open-ended war, a civil war in Iraq,” said Mr Reid. “It’s not surprising that al-Qaeda has been able to reorganise and rebuild.”
Bush concedes US ‘tired of war’
By Demetri Sevastopulo and Andrew Ward in Washington, and Steve Negus, Iraq correspondent
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: July 12 2007 15:28 | Last updated: July 13 2007 02:37
George W. Bush acknowledged on Thursday that America was “tired of war” but showed no sign of shifting policy on Iraq in spite of a White House report that presented a mostly negative assessment of the situation there.
The report said the Iraqi government had failed to bolster adequately its security forces, which were still prone to sectarianism.
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“I am disappointed that, after great sacrifice by US and Iraqi troops since the announcement of the surge, the Iraqi government has not met critical political benchmarks,” said John Warner, Republican senator. “That government is simply not providing leadership worthy of the considerable sacrifice of our forces and this has to change immediately.”
While the report on the troop surge concluded that the situation remained “complex and extremely challenging”, Mr Bush said the US could still succeed and vowed not to succumb to mounting pressure to pull out.
“I understand why the American people are...tired of the war,” Mr Bush said. But he added: “To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we’re ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for the United States.”
The report said Iraq had made very little progress developing security forces that could operate independently of US soldiers. It had also shown little success in preventing Iraqi commanders pursuing sectarian goals. “There continues to be evidence of sectarian bias in the appointment of senior military and police commanders,” the report said.
In a symbolic move, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday voted 223-201 to approve legislation to bring combat troops out of Iraq by April 1 2008.
Defying a veto threat from Mr Bush, House Democrats hope the vote will put pressure on the Senate to attach a similar troop withdrawal timetable to a military policy bill it is debating.
Two previous efforts either died in the Senate or were vetoed by the US president.
The White House has stressed that the troop surge was designed to give the Iraqi government time to implement key reforms. But Congress has become sceptical about the ability of Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi premier, to make progress, as more than 3,600 US troops have been killed since the 2003 invasion.
Mr Bush said he would wait until after General David Petraeus, US commander in Iraq, issued a full report in September before deciding if “adjustments” to strategy were required.
Iraqis, the report said, had made insufficient progress in reversing a ban on former Ba’ath party members in government agencies. The Iraqi government had also not ensured equitable distribution of oil revenues.
Democrats also leapt on reports that intelligence had concluded that al-Qaeda had regrouped to levels last seen in 2001.
“Al-Qaeda was in Afghanistan when they attacked us on 9/11 and they fled to the lawless Afghan-Pakistan border region after the Taliban fell,” said Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee.
“Instead of pursuing them and finishing them off when we had the chance in 2002 and 2003, President Bush chose to invade Iraq thereby diverting our military and intelligence resources away from the real war on terrorism.”