A strategy for victory? Not so much

The GAO says Bush's Iraq plan is built on faulty assumptions.

Published July 12, 2006 7:43PM (EDT)

The Bush administration has a strategy for victory in Iraq. The president says so, and sure enough, there's a document with a red, white and blue cover that says "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" right there on the front.

Inside the report -- and on the ground in Iraq -- it's a different story.

In a new report, the Government Accountability Office says the president's national strategy fails to provide "a clear roadmap for achieving victory in Iraq." The core problem identified by the GAO: bad assumptions by the Bush administration.

"First, the original plan assumed a permissive security environment, which never materialized," the GAO says. "An active and increasingly lethal insurgency undermined the development of effective Iraqi governmental institutions and delayed plans for an early transfer of security responsibilities to the Iraqis."

"Second," the GAO continues, "the United States assumed that its U.S.-funded reconstruction activities would help restore Iraq's essential services -- oil production, electricity generation, and water treatment -- to prewar levels. However, U.S. efforts to achieve this goal have been hindered by security, management and maintenance challenges that undermine efforts to improve the lives of the Iraqi people ..."

"Third, the strategy assumes that the Iraqi government and international community will help finance Iraq's development needs. However, Iraq has limited resources to contribute to its own reconstruction, and while the international community has offered some assistance, Iraq's estimated reconstruction needs vastly exceed what has been offered to date."

"As a result," the GAO concludes, "it is unclear how the United States will achieve its desired end-state in Iraq given these significant changes in the underlying assumptions."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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