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Can Iraq Success Be Measured? Violence Down, But Questions

The Pentagon announced yesterday that all big signs of violence in Iraq have declined between 40 and 80 percent since February 2007, when the "surge" committed an additional 30,000 troops to service. In a report to Congress they were careful to note that despite the appearance of military, political and economic gains, conditions are "fragile, reversible, and uneven," with the possibility of high-profile attacks still problematic.

One of the most optimistic numbers shows civilian deaths have dropped from a high of almost 4,000 a month in December 2006 to about 500 a month as of May, with US troop deaths declining to an all-time low of 19 in May 2008. This positive report comes amid stories today of a blast in Baghdad that left 11 dead, including four Americans and six Iraqis.

This juxtaposition of news is reflected in a new report out today that criticizes the Bush administration's measures of progress in Iraq. To see why,


Going past the reports of overall violence in Iraq, a study done by the Government Accountability Office claims several crucial measures the Bush administration is using to measure success in Iraq are either incorrect or more nuanced than they're reporting.

Among this list are claims that the administration broadly overstates gains areas like the readiness of the Iraqi Army, electricity production, and how much money Iraq is spending on its reconstruction — on this matter the office was unable to prove the administration claims that Iraq had spent more than 60 percent of its reconstruction budget, their research showed 28 percent.

Overall the report pointed to being out of touch with the realities on the ground argued that the administration's plan has serious flaws in its operational guidelines. Do the reports of violence heading down, constitute success? Is it possible to measure success in war?


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