Monday, November 21, 2011

Well, duh.

General Lloyd J. Austin III, the commander of US forces in Iraq, today stated the obvious when he predicted upheaval in the country as militant groups jostle to fill the power gap left behind by the withdrawal of US troops.  Why is this the case?  We've been there long enough to have certainly enabled some stability and capacity in politics and rule of law, no?  Apparently not.  

On May 25, 2007, Public Law 110-28, setting forth appropriations to Iraq, established 18 Benchmarks to measure the progress of Iraq towards self-governance and required reports to Congress on its progress before further appropriations would be given.  These Benchmarks primarily focused on security, in view of eventual draw-down of US troops.  In September 2007, a report by the GAO found that Iraq had not yet met most of the Benchmarks; the most important ones being De-Ba'athification laws, an independent electoral commission, distribution of oil revenues, an increase in capable Iraqi security forces, and disarming militias.  Since this last report, however, there has not been any follow-up reports.  In July 2008, the GAO issued a new report, recognizing some progress had been made on the Benchmarks, but they had not yet all been met.  The report called for an updated strategy concerning Iraq's development.  In November 2008, the US signed a bilateral agreement with Iraq concerning the withdrawal of troops and their organization in-country during the draw-down.  However, there is no mention of the Benchmarks in this agreement.  What happened to them?  If a decision to start removing troops, and setting a deadline to do so, was agreed upon, only a year after the Benchmarks were established and then deemed unsatisfied, why weren't they included?

The US has occupied Iraq since 2003.  Eventually we had to leave, so it only makes sense to have benchmarks by which to measure the progress of Iraq to a stable point so we can leave.  This has not happened though, so it is no surprise that there will likely be upheaval, chaos, and violence as the various powers figure out their positions in the weak system that is being left behind.  The US has failed to assist Iraq in establishing political capacity and a strong rule of law.  We are leaving behind a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum.  What the General did not say, but which I believe will happen, is the US will be back in Iraq in a few years, to clean up what we left behind. 


Marshal Davout said...

I feel that these comments are bit disengenuous for three reasons.
1) the GAO report that the author refers to (citing slow movement or failures in benchmarks) took place at the height of sectarian conflict, prior to the surge. A minimal level of research could have probably elicited some more recent material.
2) stating that since the Benchmarks from a previous A PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATION did not clearly carry over does not mean that there are not levels of success being measured by other entities, I.e. US Forces Command, Iraq. Give some credit to the guys on the ground
3) it is possible that such a "no, duh" comment is meant to serve other purposes than fodder for grad students. It may be trying to influence the Iraqis as we are likely still in negotitiations about troop levels, or the Kuwaitis as we are trying to maintain a presence nearby.

Nathaniel "Nat" Sec said...

1) I know how to do research, including in the morass of government publications, and I did not find any more recent material discussing measurements or benchmark achievements. If you think a minimal level of research could elicit some more recent material, you are invited to provide it.

2) Of course there should be credit to the guys on the ground. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the federal government's lack of specific benchmarks of measurement to determine the progress of Iraq's stabilization in advance of troop draw-down.

3) I'm positive the General did not imagine his comment would provide "fodder for graduate students". Again, beyond the focus of this post.