Iraq withdrawal - because of success?
From American Progress:
On Wednesday, President Bush will deliver an address at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, in which he is "expected to herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops, which he has identified as the key condition for pulling out U.S. forces." The speech appears to be an effort by the Bush administration to lay the groundwork for potentially large withdrawals of troops in 2006 and 2007. While Bush recently claimed that withdrawing troops from Iraq was a "recipe for disaster," the White House now appears to have shifted course and is embracing a withdrawal strategy. While Bush and critics of his Iraq policy may agree that a drawdown could be the proper action to take, they differ in one key respect -- the rationale for why such a withdrawal is necessary. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) recently argued that pulling out of Iraq is necessary because "the war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion." Bush, on the other hand, is trying to suggest that a drawdown is the fruits of "good progress" being made in Iraq. A review of the situation on the ground in Iraq yields the conclusion that things are getting worse, not better.
As of last night, at least 2,107 U.S. troops had died in Iraq and over 15,500 had been wounded. Almost 94 percent of those deaths have come after President Bush stood below a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. Of the total, nearly 60 percent -- 1,246 troops -- have died since the U.S. handover of sovereignty in late June 2004. Approximately three American soldiers are dying each day in Iraq this month -- roughly at the same pace as last month and at some of the highest casualty rates since the war began.
"Pentagon officials said that in October there were about 100 attacks a day in Iraq compared with 85 to 90 attacks a day in September -- and about half of all attacks involve homemade bombs." That is the highest recorded level of daily attacks since the Iraq war began. By comparison, in January it was reported, "Attacks in Baghdad regularly number in the dozens every day, with nationwide figures hovering around 50 to 70 attacks per day." Also, "more than 225 [foreigners] have been kidnapped since 2004 and at least 38 have been killed." [As of 55 minutes ago, the AP is just reporting on increased kidnappings - DJEB] Ten days ago, a suicide bomber killed nearly 100 people in Baghdad; "the attacks were the deadliest since Sept. 14, when at least 14 insurgent bombings in Baghdad killed more than 160 people."
In February 2004, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claimed, "there are over 210,000 Iraqis serving in the security forces. That's an amazing accomplishment." Seven months later, in September 2004, Rumsfeld said that 95,000 trained Iraqi troops were taking part in security operations, less than half the number the administration had been publicizing. A year later, Gen. George Casey testified before Congress that the number of Iraqi battalions rated at the highest level of readiness had dropped from three to one. "That number has apparently not changed." Now, just a few months later, the administration is claiming there are 212,000 trained and equipped Iraqi security forces, "but as it has been for the past two and a half years, it is unclear exactly what measuring sticks [the administration] is using, and whether they present the full picture."
The coalition in Iraq, "with 37 countries at its peak, has steadily shrunk amid waning public support and rising violence on the ground." There are now 27 countries that are part of the Multinational Forces. In May 2003, there were approximately 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Today, there are approximately 155,000.
Although the cost of the Iraq war has exceeded $250 billion, there has been little indication that the standard of Iraqi life has improved. Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, reported recently that the "administration promises to use $18 billion Congress allocated to rebuild water, electricity, health and oil networks to prewar levels or better are running into cold reality. ‘We are going to provide something less than that,’ he said." "As the money runs out on the $30 billion American-financed reconstruction of Iraq, the officials in charge cannot say how many planned projects they will complete, and there is no clear source for the hundreds of millions of dollars a year needed to operate the projects that have been finished." In October, the London-based Centre for Global Energy reported that Iraqi oil production had fallen below prewar levels to its lowest point in a decade. Unemployment rates hover near 40 percent. As Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) noted, "If 40 percent of Iraqis have no job and no hope, the insurgency will always find fresh recruits."
The New York Times reports, "[E]vidence has begun to mount suggesting that [Shiite Iraqi security services] are carrying out executions in predominantly Sunni neighborhoods." "American officials, who are overseeing the training of the Iraqi Army and the police, acknowledge that police officers and Iraqi soldiers, and the militias with which they are associated, may indeed be carrying out killings and abductions in Sunni communities." The Los Angeles Times writes that the death squads "undermine the U.S. effort to stabilize the nation, and train and equip Iraq's security forces." “People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,” Former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told the British newspaper The Observer. "It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things."