Washington Despite hopes that the U.S. military "surge" in Iraq would encourage economic and political headway and sap the strength of the insurgency, little lasting progress has been achieved, a new U.S. report says.
The study, based on the assessments of dozens of U.S. military and civilian officials working at local levels across Iraq, runs counter to the forecasts by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. It said that with the exception of al-Anbar province, there has been "little progress" toward political reconciliation, a key U.S. goal in Iraq.
Withdrawal of U.S. troops would produce "open battlegrounds of ethnic cleansing" in some Baghdad neighborhoods and elsewhere in Iraq, the report said.
In congressional hearings in September, Petraeus and Crocker testified that the addition of 28,000 American troops in Iraq, ordered last winter by President Bush, was tamping down violence and providing opportunity for economic projects, government reform and political reconciliation. The troop "surge" is temporary, however, with the first of the reinforcement units scheduled to leave Iraq before Christmas.
But instead of charting progress, the new report, by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, warns that Iraq "will require years of steady engagement" before there is significant progress in providing Iraqis with power and clean water, jobs, health resources and government that works.
"Iraq's complex and overlapping sectarian, political, and ethnic conflicts, as well as the difficult security situation, continue to hinder progress in promoting economic development, rule of law, and political reconciliation," the report cautioned.