The disconnect on Iraq

Petraeus says sectarian violence has been reduced "dramatically." The GAO says any decrease is "unclear."

By Tim Grieve
Published September 5, 2007 8:38PM (UTC)
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Katie Couric asked Gen. David Petraeus this morning how he would respond to those who say the "surge" has had some success in certain areas but that Iraq as a whole is still a "nightmare." Petraeus' response: "Well, if you look at the country as a whole, there is an unacceptable level of violence, but that level of violence, the number of ethno-sectarian deaths, you name it, the number of incidents ... has been reduced dramatically."

Of course, the Government Accountability Office did look at "the country as a whole," and here's what it said just yesterday about the level of violence in Iraq: "It is unclear whether sectarian violence in Iraq has decreased --a key security benchmark -- since it is difficult to measure whether the perpetrators' intents were sectarian in nature, and other measures of population security show differing trends."


Why the disconnect? The Pentagon says that the GAO didn't consider data from August that might have showed a clearer drop in sectarian violence. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, GAO chief David Walker said that he "asked for, but did not receive, the information through the end of August."

Tim Grieve

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

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