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The Landscape of Success

April 14, 2008
Weekly Columns

Over seven months ago General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker each delivered first-hand accounts of the status of the mission in Iraq.  Last week those men returned to Congress to give another report to the American people.  They gave a candid and frank assessment of the progress that has been made as well as the challenges that remain in Iraq.

During the report General Petraeus addressed the major security gains that have brought additional stability to the country in the past 15 months.  He was prudent to point out, though, that the biggest challenges that remain in this mission are political in nature.  I witnessed this myself when I visited Iraq last October as part of the first Congressional delegation to be allowed into the city of Ramadi without body armor.  In Ramadi and other parts of the country, more police, soldiers and volunteers are signing up to help fight terror and stabilize the country.  While this was a sure sign of progress, there is still a considerable amount of local support needed to maintain stability and fight terror in Iraq.

The Iraqi government has recently taken more actions to bolster their authority and build a functional system of government.  For example, government officials have implemented a budget and are creating a legitimate acquisition process.  This process has allowed provinces for the first time to successfully request and receive funding from Iraq's central government.  Additionally, in February, the government in Iraq passed a 49.9 billion dollar budget which allocated 8.9 billion dollars for security and 13.2 billion dollars for capital investments.  This evidence shows the Iraqi government is taking some steps to ensure its own security and invest more of its own money in the process.  There is no doubt, though, that during the next phases of this mission, Iraq must continue to use more and more of its own financial resources to rebuild the country.

Even though there are clear signs of progress being reported, the overall landscape of success is uneven across the country.  There are still considerable improvements that need to be made for the country to be an independent and stable player in the world political arena.  In the meantime, America needs to continue its efforts and see this job through to completion.  But that commitment must hold Iraq accountable for increasing its own control over the situation and call for Iraqis to increase their financial obligation for rebuilding.  The situation is complex, but I believe that we are making important advances in the war against terror and that we are molding a safer and more secure future for the Middle East.