Iraqi Government Gets Poor Grade from GAO

The Iraqi government has failed to meet 11 of its 18 benchmark goals for political progress and security, according to a new report issued Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office.

"Overall key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds," said U.S. Comptroller David Walker in prepared remarks for a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

An advance copy of the 100-page report and Walker's testimony was obtained by various media organizations.

GAO's findings paint a bleaker view of progress in Iraq than offered by Bush in July and comes at a critical time in the Iraq debate. So far, Republicans have stuck by Bush and staved off Democratic legislation ordering troops home. But many, who have grown uneasy about the unpopularity of the war, say they want to see substantial improvement in Iraq by September.

Next week the top military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, are scheduled to brief Congress.

The report does not make any substantial policy recommendations, but says future administration reports "would be more useful to the Congress" if they provided more detailed information.

Earlier this year, Bush sent 30,000 extra troops to Iraq to enhance security in Baghdad and Anbar province. In a congressionally mandated progress report released by the White House in July, Bush judged that Baghdad had made satisfactory progress in eight of the 18 benchmarks. In five of those eight areas, GAO determined that Iraq had either failed or made only partial progress.

The disparity is largely due to the stricter standard applied by GAO in preparing the report. GAO used a "thumbs up or thumbs down" approach in grading Baghdad, whereas Bush's assessment looked at whether Iraq was achieving progress. For example, Bush said Iraqi politicians had made satisfactory progress in reviewing its constitution, whereas GAO ruled they had failed because the process was not complete.

The State Department and Defense Department reviewed the report before its release. According to officials interviewed last week, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the administration disputed GAO's conclusion that Iraq has failed to provide three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations or to ensure that the security plan will not provide a safe haven for outlaws.

In the final report released Tuesday, GAO marked those two benchmarks as "partially met" and alludes to pushback it received from the Pentagon.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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