A Year Later, Surge's Impact Seen in Some Areas One year ago this week, President Bush outlined a new strategy for Iraq, including increasing the number of U.S. troops and the amount of American economic aid. Since then, some of what Bush envisioned has been accomplished, and some remains to be done.
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A Year Later, Surge's Impact Seen in Some Areas

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A Year Later, Surge's Impact Seen in Some Areas

A Year Later, Surge's Impact Seen in Some Areas

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One year ago this week, President Bush outlined a new strategy for Iraq.

In a nationally televised speech from the White House, he unveiled an increase or a so-called surge in U.S. troops. And the president promised more American economic aid. Mr. Bush also said he had received a pledge from the Iraqi government to do more to heal the country's divisions.

Today, we begin a series of four reports looking at the president's speech and what's been accomplished over the last 12 months.

We begin with NPR's Tom Bowman.

(Soundbite of crowd)

TOM BOWMAN: January 2007, violence in Iraq is steadily rising, especially in Baghdad - car bombs, shootings, ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people, and it is unacceptable to me.

BOWMAN: So the president decided to act. He announced he was sending in 30,000 more American troops to Iraq, most of them to Baghdad. And he said the Iraqis would boost their own troop levels.

Pres. BUSH: The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi army and national police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi army and national police brigades committed to this effort.

BOWMAN: But a year later, those 18 Iraqi brigades are down to 15. Some of the units have been sent by the Iraqi government to other hot spots - the outskirts of the capital, to the cities of Diwaniyah in Basra in the south. Even from the start, all those Iraqi national police units operated at about half strength, and many are still linked to Shiite death squads.

Mr. CHARLES RAMSEY (Former Police Chief, Washington D.C.): They have a lot of very, very serious issues within the national police.

BOWMAN: That's former Washington D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey on NBC's "Meet the Press" in September. He was on a high-level panel looking at the Iraqi security forces. Ramsey says the panel recommended disbanding the national police.

Mr. RAMSEY: They need to be refocused because currently they are not performing at an effective level. And if what you want is a police force rooted in democratic principles, the national police miss the mark.

BOWMAN: But American commanders in Baghdad refuse to disband the national police, preferring instead to retrain them, replace corrupt commanders.

The national police are just one example of stubborn sectarianism between Shiites and Sunnis - the kind President Bush said in January would be a thing of the past.

Pres. BUSH: Prime Minister Malaki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.

BOWMAN: In some cases, it has been tolerated by Maliki's Shiite-led government. In the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadiya, an armed citizens group organized by the Americans was pulled off a checkpoint in the fall by the Iraqi government. Why? The citizen's group was all Sunni.

Major General JOSEPH FIL JR. (U.S. Army): At the request of the Iraqi government, we did suspend them from operations.

BOWMAN: That's Major General Joseph Fil, who at the time commanded U.S. troops in Baghdad. He says the Sunni citizen volunteers were withdrawn, even though they were doing a good job.

Major Gen. FIL JR.: I can tell you that the violence in Sadiya went down when we had those initial volunteers on the job. And we're anxious to get them and the Shia that will be mixed with them back on the streets, no question about it.

BOWMAN: Iraqis taking control of their streets, taking over more responsibility - that was a big part of the president's speech a year ago, with a date certain.

Pres. BUSH: To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November.

BOWMAN: By year's end, Iraq controlled nine of the country's 18 provinces. The American ground commander, Lt. General Ray Odierno, says security is still tenuous in many areas, so he's being careful about any turnover of authority to the Iraqis.

Lieutenant General RAY ODIERNO (U.S. Deputy Commander in Iraq): Well, we review that every month, and it goes month to month. So we'll continue to evaluate those as we move forward.

BOWMAN: There's been progress on security, but little movement on the political front. President Bush in January said Iraqi politicians were supposed to pass an oil law.

Pres. BUSH: To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.

BOWMAN: But it didn't pass. There are still deep divisions in the Iraqi government, in the parliament, especially with the Kurds. They want more control over the oil in their region in northern Iraq. But American officials say oil revenues are being distributed on a roughly per capita basis without the law.

In his speech, President Bush also laid out another political benchmark.

Pres. BUSH: To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year.

BOWMAN: Provincial elections were not held. Sunnis want them so they can have a greater say in how they are governed; the Shiites are stalling. American officials now hope elections will be held sometime this year.

The president also said the Iraqi government would promote reconciliation with Sunnis.

Pres. BUSH: To allow more Iraqis to reenter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws.

BOWMAN: The government has not reformed these laws. That would allow thousands of Sunnis into government jobs, many of them low-level members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. American officials say the bill has a good chance of passage this year.

Then there's the issue of money. Twelve months ago, President Bush said Iraq would spend more of its own money, not just rely on the hundreds of billions of dollars in American aid.

Pres. BUSH: To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs.

BOWMAN: But by year's end, Iraq spent about one third of that $10 billion. American officials say the Iraqis still don't have a competent bureaucracy to distribute money. And in some areas, they say, money is withheld because of sectarian reasons.

In his January speech, President Bush made it clear the Iraqi government was running out of time.

Pres. BUSH: 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. Now is the time to act.

BOWMAN: Now is the time, one year later, it appears, to diminish those expectations. Just before Christmas, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice downplayed those promises. Compare her remarks to those made by President Bush from a year earlier.

Pres. BUSH: So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE (U.S. Department of State): I no longer think of them so much as benchmarks as the pieces that they are now presenting as what they need to do over the next year.

BOWMAN: A similar chord was struck by the American ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker. He told this program on New Year's Day that the Iraqi government must assume more of what is now being done by the Americans.

Ambassador RYAN CROCKER (U.S. Ambassador to Iraq): We would look to see the government to be, and be seen by its people as the deliverer, increasingly, of security services and prosperity, thereby attracting the growing support of Iraq's people. None of these are tremendously flashy. They are all extremely important. And that's what we'll be working for as we move through 2008.

BOWMAN: Crocker says Iraq is a substantially better place because violence is down.

Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.

MONTAGNE: You can read George W. Bush's speech on the surge and our footnotes on that speech, plus what remains to be done, at npr.org.

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