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Op-Ed

The State of Iraq: An Update

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As 2006 winds down, two developments inside Iraq stand out: the failure of the previous year’s election to produce any sense of progress, and the commencement of Iraq’s civil war, dating back to the Feb. 22 bombing of the hallowed Shiite mosque in Samarra and escalating ever since.

It is still possible to find signs of hope in our running statistics on Iraq — the number of Iraqi security forces who are trained and technically proficient, the gradually improving economic output, the number of children being immunized. But those same children cannot feel safe on the way to school in much of today’s Iraq; economic growth is a top-down phenomenon having little effect on the unemployment rate or well-being of Iraqis in places like Anbar Province and the Sadr City slum in Baghdad; and those increasingly proficient security forces remain politically unreliable in many cases, just as inclined to stoke sectarian strife as to contain it.

Despite some unconvincing comments from President Bush in the prelude to the November midterm elections that “absolutely, we’re winning,” most Americans now agree on the diagnosis of the situation in Iraq. The Iraq Study Group warned of a further “slide toward chaos.” Colin Powell said on Sunday that he thought we are losing, even if all is not yet lost. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted in his confirmation hearings that we aren’t winning, even if he holds out hope that we also aren’t losing. His predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, in a memo leaked several weeks ago, recognized that Iraq is going badly and put out a laundry list of potential options that we may have to consider, including multiparty negotiations modeled on those that ended the war in Bosnia.

Significant changes are clearly needed. At a minimum, we will probably require some combination of the options now being offered the president by the Iraq Study Group, the Pentagon and others — a large program to create jobs, a surge of perhaps 25,000 more American troops to Iraq to improve security in Baghdad, an ultimatum to Iraqi political leaders that if they fail to achieve consensus on key issues like sharing oil, American support for the operation could very soon decline.

If such steps fail, last-ditch options may well be needed within a year, including the sort of “soft partition” of Iraq by religion and ethnicity that Mr. Rumsfeld and Senator Joseph Biden have been discussing, combined with a plan to help people move to where they feel safer within the country. Although it has been said before about previous new years, it seems very likely that 2007 will be make or break time in Iraq.

Categories

Nov. 2003

Nov. 2004

Nov. 2005

Nov. 2006

 

 

 

 

 

U.S./Other Foreign Troops in Iraq (in thousands)

123/24

138/24

160/23

140/17

U.S. Troops Killed

82

137

96

68

U.S. Troops Wounded

337

1,397

466

508

Iraqi Army and Police Fatalities

50

160

176

123

Iraqi Civilian Fatalities

1,250

2,900

1,800

4,000

Multiple-Fatality Bombings

6

11

41

65

Number of Insurgents

5,000

20,000

20,000

25,000

Strength of Shiite Militias

5,000

10,000

20,000

50,000

Daily Average of Inter-Ethnic Attacks

0

1

1

15

Number of Foreign Fighters

250

750

1,250

1,350

Iraqis Internally Displaced Since April 2003

100,000

175,000

200,000

650,000

Iraqi Refugees Since April 2003

100,000

350,000

900,000

1,800,000

Iraqi Doctors Murdered or Kidnapped/Fled Iraq (total)

100/
1,000

250/
2,000

1,000/
5,000

2,250/
12,000

Iraqi Security Forces Technically Proficient

0

10,000

35,000

115,000

Iraqi Security Forces Politically Dependable

0

0

5,000

10,000

Oil Production (in millions of barrels per day; prewar: 2.5

2.1

2.0

2.0

2.1

Household Fuel Available (as percentage of estimated need)

76

77

88

54

Electricity Production (in megawatts; prewar: 4,000)

3,600

3,200

3,700

3,700

Unemployment Rate (percent)

50

35

33

33

Per Capita G.D.P. (in dollars; prewar: 900)

550

1,000

1,100

1,150


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