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Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq

March 2008
Report to Congress
In accordance with the
Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2008
(Section 9010, Public Law 109-289)


Executive Summary

This report to Congress, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, is submitted pursuant to Section 9010 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2007, Public Law 109-289 as amended by Section 1308 of Public Law 110-28 and Section 1224 of Public Law 110-181.1 The report includes specific performance indicators and measures of progress toward political, economic, and security stability in Iraq, as directed in that legislation. This is the eleventh in a series of quarterly reports on this subject. The most recent report was submitted in December 2007. The report complements other reports and information about Iraq provided to Congress and is not intended as a single source of all information about the combined efforts or the future strategy of the United States, its Coalition partners or Iraq.

The strategic goal of the United States in Iraq remains a unified, democratic and federal Iraq that can govern, defend and sustain itself and is an ally in the war on terror. This goal is being pursued along political, security, economic and diplomatic lines of operation. This report measures progress toward achieving that goal during the reporting period (December 2007 through February 2008) and challenges to the Iraqi and Coalition efforts to achieve their mutual objectives.2

The security environment in Iraq continues to improve, supported by limited but important gains on the political, economic and diplomatic fronts. Violence levels have declined since the last report and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are gradually assuming responsibility for maintaining law and order and promoting stability. New strides have been taken in reconciliation at the national, provincial and local levels, and the Iraqi economy is growing. However, recent security gains remain fragile, and sustained progress over the long term will depend on Iraq’s ability to address a complex set of issues associated with key political and economic objectives.

Violence levels are down throughout most of Iraq. Since the June 2007 report, deaths from ethno-sectarian violence are down nearly 90%. Total civilian deaths and Coalition deaths have each dropped by over 70%. A number of factors have contributed to the decrease in violence in Iraq, to include a Coalition focus on securing the population, progress against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), militia extremists and criminal special groups, rejection of AQI by significant portions of the population and the continued strength of the tribal Awakening movement and Sons of Iraq (formerly known as Concerned Local Citizens), limitations on malign Iranian influence, Muqtada al Sadr’s order to Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) to suspend attacks, actions in source and transit countries against foreign fighter facilitation networks, and an increase of over 100,000 Iraqi Army, police and border forces. However, there remain a number of concerns. AQI and other extremist groups remain resilient; though they have sustained significant losses, these groups continue to pose a substantial threat and continue to carry out barbaric attacks. While their strength and influence are significantly reduced in Anbar Province, Baghdad, the belts around Baghdad and many areas of Diyala Province, AQI elements remain highly lethal in parts of the Tigris River Valley and in Ninewa Province. AQI members have, in particular, been targeting key figures in the Awakening movement and Sons of Iraq groups and have also been conducting a smaller number of less effective, high-profile attacks against the local population. Additionally, ethno-sectarian struggles over power and resources continue, and among Shi’a groups, criminal activity and infighting continue to impede progress.

The Awakening movement among the tribes of western, central and northern Iraq continues to grow. Many Sunni Arab and a growing number of Shi’a sheikhs are working with the Coalition, and their tribal members and other local citizens are fighting AQI through participation in Sons of Iraq groups. Overall, Sons of Iraq in north and central Iraq continue to complement Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police and Coalition forces and now number approximately 91,000 volunteers (71,500 Sunni, 19,500 Shi’a). To date, close to 20,000 have already transitioned to the ISF or civil employment. The Sons of Iraq program is helping to improve security at the local level by involving local citizens in the security of their communities. The program enables Iraqi and Coalition forces to interact with local residents who are trusted in their communities to obtain information on insurgents and illegal militia activity and to protect key infrastructure. The successes of Sons of Iraq groups have provoked AQI to attack their leaders.

Though the contributions of the Sons of Iraq have been important, these groups also pose challenges for the Government of Iraq (GoI) and, to a degree, for the Coalition. These include the potential for infiltration by insurgents, the possibility of distortions in the local economy if salaries are not carefully managed and the need for a comprehensive plan to transition Sons of Iraq to sustainable forms of employment in the ISF or in the private sector. In addition, the GoI is understandably concerned about the employment of a large number of former insurgents. Coalition forces are helping to address these concerns through engagement at the local, provincial, and national levels.

The average weekly number of security incidents has decreased since the last report. The level of violence continues to be significantly lower than levels in late summer 2007, and remains comparable to that last consistently seen in Iraq in early 2005. Currently, the majority of attack incidents occur in Ninewa and Diyala Provinces. Particularly noteworthy progress has been achieved in Anbar Province where security incidents have decreased by nearly 90% since January 2007.

Coalition and Iraqi operations have constrained and degraded the ability of AQI and other groups to organize, equip and execute attacks. The Coalition and ISF continue efforts to preserve these gains as well as further reduce levels of violence. A series of offensive operations that began in January 2008 in Ninewa, Diyala and areas south of Baghdad continue. While these operations have led to a relative increase in security incidents in these areas in the short term, they have also disrupted multiple vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) cells, uncovered hundreds of weapons caches and captured or killed several top insurgent leaders. These achievements bring with them the potential of long-term gains in security and stability.

Iraqi police and military capabilities continued to improve during the reporting period, underpinned by progress in ministerial capacity. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has expanded the number of its training facilities from four to 17 over the past year, and the MoI is currently in the midst of implementing its first annual strategic plan. Similarly, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) continues to progress. With continuing Coalition assistance, the MoD has generated 134 army combat, infrastructure and Special Operations battalions that are conducting operations at varying levels of capability. Another 37 combat battalions and two Special Operations battalions are either planned or have begun the force generation process. Improved security and improved ministerial and security force capacity are paying dividends in terms of strengthening coordination between MoD and MoI elements. This synergy is giving the GoI its first opportunity to conduct long-term planning for security force development. Despite ongoing progress, Iraqi forces are still deficient in sustainment capabilities. Sectarianism and corruption remain significant problems that both ministries continue to address.

Coalition forces continue to transfer responsibility for security to the GoI as the appropriate conditions are met. When Basrah Province transitioned to Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC) on December 16, 2007, it became the ninth of 18 provinces for which the GoI now has security responsibility. Though the province faces continuing challenges from militia and criminal elements, Iraqi forces in Basrah have demonstrated their capability to provide Iraqi solutions to provincial security challenges. The Basrah Police Chief implemented a force-wide re-education program and expelled hundreds of police officers with ties to militias in January 2008, promoting security and reducing overall levels of violence. The preparations and prompt response to the threat posed by the Soldiers of Heaven cult during the Ashura holiday in January 2008 further demonstrated the capabilities of Iraqi forces in the PIC provinces of Basrah, Muthanna, Najaf and Karbala.

The GoI passed a number of key pieces of legislation this reporting period. The Unified Retirement Law went into effect with its publication in the Official Gazette on December 27, 2007. The Council of Representatives (CoR) passed the Accountability and Justice Law (de-Ba’athification) on January 12, 2008, and the Presidency Council approved the law on February 3, 2008. The GoI also passed a highly symbolic flag law, eliminating the Saddam Hussein-era flag. Today, the new Iraqi flag flies over all parts of Iraq, to include Iraqi Kurdistan. On February 13, 2008, in an unprecedented legislative grand bargain that included major compromises across political alliances and ethno-sectarian lines, the CoR passed three laws—the 2008 Budget, the Amnesty Law and the Provincial Powers Law. On February 26, 2008, the Presidency Council endorsed the Budget and Amnesty Law, but Vice President Mehdi returned the Provincial Powers Law with requests that certain provisions be amended. Vice President Mehdi objected to the bill granting the central government a means to remove governors, framing his objection in constitutional terms. The CoR political blocs will have to negotiate compromise language to address these points about constitutionality of the law, but this will not be the first time in recent months they have had to maneuver to save legislation in the face of Presidency Council resistance, and it is a sign of the maturing legislative abilities of Iraqi parliamentarians. These legislative successes represent a significant initial step toward political reconciliation.

Meanwhile, economic development and political reconciliation at the provincial level continue to build on the progress seen last quarter. Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are helping to nurture this process. Mentoring by PRTs resulted in 17 of 18 Provincial Councils submitting their Provincial Development Strategies to the Ministry of Planning on a timely basis. The Provincial Development Strategy serves as the framework document for building provincial budgets and links the provinces to supporting ministries throughout the GoI. PRTs have also used their Quick Response Funds to respond quickly and effectively to local reconstruction needs. Despite these successes, PRTs in a number of areas still face challenges relating to access, security, personnel, planning and Iraqi central government support.

The U.S. Government is working with the GoI on rule of law issues. During this reporting period, partnering efforts increased the number of judicial investigators, reduced the number of pretrial detainees and implemented key institutional reforms in the criminal justice system. U.S. efforts also include promoting secure judiciary complexes, such as the model Rusafa Rule of Law Complex, to provide safe locations for judges to investigate and prosecute major crimes of sectarian violence. However, the Iraqi judicial system continues to lack adequate capacity to adjudicate cases, and an estimated 26,000 persons are being held in the Iraqi detention system. Overcoming corruption and criminal influence within the judicial and prison systems and maintaining international standards for detainee treatment in the Iraqi detention system pose additional challenges. In addition to supporting progress in these areas, the Coalition is working with GoI partners to prevent extremist recruiting in Iraqi detention facilities.

United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1790, which currently authorizes the Coalition to conduct the full range of operations in Iraq, will expire at the end of 2008. In anticipation of the expiration of the UNSCR, the U.S. and Iraq are preparing for upcoming status of forces negotiations. The goal of those negotiations will be to produce an agreement that will provide the United States and its Coalition partners with authorities necessary to conduct the operations that may be required to support the GoI.

At the request of the Iraqi Government, operations of the United Nations Assistance Mission - Iraq (UNAMI) are expanding under a new mandate, UNSCR 1770. This mandate includes assisting in national dialogue and political reconciliation, resolving boundary disputes, promoting regional dialogue, facilitating demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration (DDR), supporting and facilitating the safe and orderly return of refugees and coordinating and implementing programs to improve Iraq’s capability to provide essential services. Under the leadership of the United Nations (UN) Special Representative of the Secretary General, UNAMI is providing essential support to the GoI. In particular, UNAMI is facilitating efforts between the GoI and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to resolve territorial disputes in accordance with Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution. UNAMI is also providing needed technical assistance for upcoming provincial elections.

Iraq’s economy is overcoming impediments to growth and is projected to grow 7% in 2008, resulting in an estimated nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of US$60.9 billion. Core inflation for 2007 was 12.28%, compared to core inflation of 31.92% in 2006. These macroeconomic signs of improvement are largely due to improved monetary policy, government spending of oil revenue and an improved security environment. Additionally, in recognition of Iraq’s compliance under its Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the IMF approved a new SBA for Iraq on December 17, 2007, that is valid until March 2009.

The GoI’s ability to spend its resources, to provide essential services and to promote economic development is progressing. Iraq’s national and provincial governments have demonstrated an increasing capacity in their capital budget execution, a prerequisite for improved delivery of essential services. In 2007, capital budget execution occurred at more than double the 2006 rate. However, as indicated by the 2007 rate of only 55% execution as of November 2007, much more progress is needed. Electricity supply fluctuated during the reporting period. Record-high generation occurred in December, followed by a sharp decline in hours of power in mid-January. This loss of production capability was due to the combined effects of unplanned maintenance, interruption of imports from Turkey and Iran, interdiction of transmission lines and fuel distribution problems. Electricity demand continues to grow and currently outpaces supply by 57%. The volume of oil production and exports increased slightly during this reporting period. The high price of oil is providing additional revenue to the GoI. Progress in the agribusiness sector, due in part to U.S. efforts, has the potential to help diversify Iraq’s economy, which is still largely dependent on oil. Iraq’s economic picture is not entirely positive as economic progress remains hampered by a continued lack of transparency, endemic corruption, weak technical skills and a complex legal framework. Additionally, security concerns continue to discourage international investors and hinder private sector growth in most parts of the country.

In summary, Iraq has seen important security gains in recent months. However, these security gains cannot be taken for granted and there is tough, challenging work ahead. Sustained improvements in security will remain linked to political and economic progress. On the economic front, enduring improvements are dependent on the GoI’s still-tenuous ability to provide essential services and improve oil, electricity and water infrastructure. Advances in these areas are critical to keeping Iraq on the path to sustainable economic development. On the political front, much will depend on continued legislative progress and the implementation of recently passed legislation, improvements in the effectiveness of Iraq’s ministries and whether Iraq’s political leaders have the will and ability needed to turn nascent political accommodation at the local and national levels into lasting national reconciliation. Further progress will depend on the continued ability of Iraqi leaders to capitalize on the hard-fought gains achieved by the Coalition and Iraqi forces and other courageous members of Iraqi society who are dedicated to peace.

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