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On the Record

Iraq Index: Measuring Progress in Security, Services

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

President Bush told reporters yesterday they could gauge developments in Iraq by watching what Iraq’s new government does.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I do think we’ll be able to measure progress. You can measure progress in capacity of Iraqi units. You can measure progress in megawatts of electricity delivered. You can measure progress in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people. There’s ways to determine whether or not this government’s plans are succeeding.

INSKEEP: That’s President Bush yesterday giving three different ways that you can measure progress of Iraq’s government. In order to get a sense of where those three items are now, so that we can more easily follow them in the future, we brought in Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.

Michael, welcome to the program.

Mr. MICHAEL O’HANLON, Brookings Institution: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: And let’s listen again to the first of those three items the President mentioned.

President BUSH: You can measure progress in capacity of Iraqi units…

INSKEEP: Capacity of Iraqi units. He’s talking about security forces there and their ability to fight.

Where do those units stand now, in terms of the number of people trained and how strong they are?

MR. O’HANLON: Over all, they are about a quarter million, or a little bit more, in the way of Iraqi security personnel. And of that total, about 60,000 are now considered to be in one of the top two tiers of readiness by the U.S. training standards that were set out by the two U.S. generals who have really been responsible for this training program.

However, a big caveat – and this is the sort of thing that’s going to haunt Mr. Bush’s list of criteria in general – there are downsides. For example, the likelihood these Iraqi forces will fight each other as they get better armed, because they are largely of one ethnic group or another. That’s going to be the sort of thing we’re going to see throughout this kind of a conversation.

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