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GAO Says At Eight Iraqi Provinces Are Unstable

Violence and unstability is increasing in Iraq's provinces.
by Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Apr 25, 2006
Eight of Iraq's 18 provinces are dangerously unstable and violent, not just the four usually cited.

A Government Accountability Office report, based on recent State Department and U.S. military assessments in Iraq, suggests the country is on a downward slope. Insurgent attacks increased 23 percent between 2004 and 2005, and oil, electricity and water services are all below pre-invasion levels.

The assertion by the U.S. military and the Bush administration that Iraq's problems are limited to four provinces can be traced back to then-Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who put forth that argument in a press conference with President Bush in September 2004.

"Out of these 18 provinces, 14 to 15 are completely safe, there are no problems," Allawi said.

The factoid was picked up by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in his testimony to Congress on Iraq in February 2005, and repeated by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Richard Myers in May 2005. Myers also reported that attacks were down 25 percent during the fall and winter, coinciding with Ramadan 2004 and the elections. Vice President Dick Cheney predicted in June 2005 the insurgency was in its "last throes."

But new data revealed by the GAO suggests the opposite is true.

According to the U.S. Embassy/Multinational Force Iraq National Coordination Team's Provincial Stability Assessment generated in March, just three of Iraq's provinces are stable, and all of them are in so-called Kurdistan in northern Iraq.

Eight provinces are considered moderately stable, all of them south of Baghdad in heavily Shi'ite areas. Moderate provinces are considered those that have a functioning government but still have areas of concern, including sectarian militias; an economy that is slowly developing but still suffer from high unemployment; and a security situation that is under control "but where conditions exist that could quickly lead to instability."

Six provinces - Ninevah, Tamim, Salah ah Din, Diyala, Baghdad and Basrah - are in "serious" condition. Their provincial governments are not fully formed or not capable off serving the needs of the populace; economic development is stagnant and unemployment is high; and the security situation is marked by routine insurgent activity, assassination and extremism.

Anbar province, the vast Sunni area west of Baghdad that comprises Ramadi, Fallujah, Haditha, and al Qaim, is in "critical" condition. The government is not functioning, the economy does not have an infrastructure or the government leadership to develop it, and it is a significant contributor to instability, and there are high levels of insurgent activity, assassinations and extremism.

The insurgency in Iraq -- made up almost entirely of home-grown fighters, although some foreign fighters, organizers and funding are exacerbating the problem -- has "intensified through October 2005 and has remained strong and resilient since then."

Ramadan - the holy month in Islam, which marks the period when the prophet Muhammad was receiving the Koran from Allah -- occurred in October 2005 and marks the highest peak of insurgent-initiated attacks against U.S. and Iraqi government forces and civilians. Overall, according to the GAO report released Tuesday, attacks increased by 23 percent from 2004 to 2005.

The intensification of the insurgency occurs simultaneously with a faltering reconstruction effort. In each of three key sectors -- oil, water and electricity - Iraqis have less capability and service than they did prior to the invasion.

Prior to the war, Iraq's pre-war production capacity of crude oil was 2.6 million barrels per day. Production as of March 2006 was 2 million barrels per day. The United States' goal has been to increase that to 3 million per day. The United States has spent more than $2 billion on Iraqi oil infrastructure projects, according to California Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform subcommittee on national security, emerging threats and international relations.

Oil accounts for some 90 percent of Iraq's economy, and almost 95 percent of the government's budget. While Iraq sits on the second-largest proven oil reserves in the world, the inability to pump, refine and distribute the oil is a major problem. Then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said before the war Iraq would largely pay for its own reconstruction through its oil wealth.

Iraq's peak generation capacity prior to the war was 4300 megawatts. As of March, electrical generation was 4,092 megawatts, with a peak in July 2005 of 5,387 megawatts. The U.S. goal is 6,000 megawatts. U.S. officials in Baghdad say the Iraqi demand for electricity now that consumer electronics are widely available is well above 8,000 megawatts. The United States has spent more than $4 billion on electricity, according to Waxman. It will max out at $5 billion, well before Iraqi demand is met, U.S. officials told UPI.

The national average of electricity per day was 12.3 hours in the last week of February 2006, and 11.7 hours per day in the last week of March. In Baghdad, the average was 8.1 and 5.7 hours, respectively. Those hours are not necessarily contiguous.

One of the main problems with electrical generation is Iraq's refusal to use natural gas to fuel 41 natural gas turbines. The Iraqi government instead fuels them with oil, decreasing their potential power output by 50 percent, and requiring up to three times more maintenance because the oil gums up the turbines. The yearly cost of using fuel oil for the turbines is $1.5 billion. If Iraq were to use the natural gas it currently flares off its oil wells, the annual operating cost would be $81.8 million and output would be twice as high., according to the report.

Potable water production is harder to measure against a pre-war average because no good data exists on how many Iraqis had drinking water pumped to their homes. Waxman says 50 percent had it, and it has dropped now to 32 percent.

The most serious problem with the water supply is not its production but its distribution. Some 1.1 million cubic meters of drinking water per day is now produced. The U.S. goal is 2.5 million cubic meters per day. According to the GAO, 60 percent of the fresh water is lost due to leakage, contamination and illegal connections. Potable water and sewer lines are adjacent to each other in some places, which allows leaking sewage to enter water lines, if there is insufficient pressure in the water mains.

"In the absence of metering and quality measures, it is unclear how U.S. efforts are improving Iraqi access to water and sanitation services," the report states.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Government Accountability Office

Lessons From Iraq Are Critical To Future Planning
Washington (UPI) Apr 25, 2006
As recognition of the U.S. defeat in Iraq spreads, so also does the process of sweeping up the debris. Both civilian observers and a few voices inside the military have begun the "lessons learned" business, trying to figure out what led to our defeat so that we do not repeat the same mistakes. That is the homage we owe to this war's dead and wounded. To the degree we do learn important lessons, they will not have suffered in vain, even though we lost the war.

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