REPORT SHOWS HALF IRAQ BENCHMARKS NOT MET
SthPacific | September 15, 2007 at 07:22 amby
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US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has flagged the possibility that troop levels in Iraq can be further reduced within months. But, he says, it depends on continued progress in Iraq. As Mr Gates was speaking, a new White House report cast doubt on claims of security and political progress there.
The day after addressing the nation to press the case for keeping troops in Iraq, President Bush joined marines at a base outside Washington for lunch.
GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: Are you watching what I'm eating. Make sure you put some vegetables on there. Yeah, put some broccoli on it, it's a family tradition.
Unlike his Father who in 1990 banned broccoli from Air Force One and the White House. California growers send 10 tons to President Bush and Mrs. Bush and to continue to defy family traditions, his father had the good sense to go in and get out of Iraq quickly.
The President's been making much of the progress he's seen in Iraq. And while he was with the troops, his defence chief was at the Pentagon, announcing that he hoped US troop levels in Iraq could be reduced from the current 169,000 to 100,000 by January, but only if things continued to improve.
ROBERT GATES, US DEFENSE SECRETARY: What the situation in Iraq in a year from now will be is a mystery, not a secret.
Heading back to Washington, Mr Bush said he told the marines to expect conditions in Iraq to be tough.
GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: I made it clear to them that there's a lot of courage in Iraq, these Iraqis are in the fight. But I also made it clear to them that we expect the Iraqi Government to enhance national reconciliation through the passage of law.
But the President's own benchmark assessment, sent to Congress by the White House just 12 hours after his address to the nation, says there was an increase in ethno-sectarian deaths in July and August, because of massive car bomb attacks. That the Iraqi Government has achieved progress on just 9 of 18 benchmarks set by the US. Among the failures it lists militia control of security forces and not sharing oil revenue. There is evidence that the US troops surge in Baghdad is working, but the Iraqi Government says 400 Iraqis are still being killed each week across the country, and many can no longer take life behind the concrete blast barriers dividing their cities.
NASAA NIMWE, PHARMACIST: My friends have all gone. There is no life for the young people and even for us, my husband and I - we are both in our 50s I mean, life can not be here, so I have to think of fleeing the country because I think I am being suffocated here.
Recent visa restrictions imposed by Syria to stem the flow of 30,000 refugees fleeing Iraq each month have been lifted for the month of Ramadan.
“Eat your broccoli son, or else you'll turn out like President Bush" doesn’t have the same clout as it did. But if any kid came home with a report card like this, you would be calling their teacher.
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