Saturday, September 08, 2007

GAO Auditor on Petraeus Report: 'I think you need to ask him how he defines sectarian violence'

Above: A woman in Najaf yesterday mourns a loved one killed in a mortar attack on a west Baghdad neighborhood.

US auditor queries military Iraq casualty figures

An independent US government auditor on Friday cast doubt on US military statistics expected to show a huge dip in sectarian violence in Iraq under the current troop surge strategy...

"The primary difference between us and the military is whether or not violence has been reduced with regard to sectarian violence," Walker told the Senate Armed Services committee...

In long-awaited testimony on Monday to Congress on the progress of the surge, Walker said war commander General David Petraeus will cite a large decrease in sectarian violence.

"I think you need to ask him how he defines sectarian violence," Walker told senators.

"The other thing you have to look at is if it's sustainable."

Read the rest Google News

Level of Iraq violence difficult to gauge

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he had reviewed the classified report and remarked, “I don’t quite understand the reason for the classification.”

Levin wants Gates to review the request over the weekend so legislators might have access to the information by Monday, when Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker will start presenting their long-awaited assessment of the surge and suggestions for future plans — thoughts they’ve already shared with Bush. That assessment is expected to claim a dramatic reduction in recent violence.

During a presentation of the GAO report Friday before Levin’s committee, David Walker, U.S. comptroller general and chief of the GAO, told Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., that the annex contains information “directly relevant” to the methodology used to calculate sectarian violence. Reed said the information goes to the heart of the discussion about the way forward in Iraq...

Walker acknowledged that Petraeus will report a decline in violence. But, he added, “We cannot get comfortable with the methodology that’s used to determine the total violence which is sectarian-related and which is nonsectarian-related. It’s extremely difficult to do that. People don’t necessarily leave calling cards, you know, when certain things happen.”

Read the rest at Army Times

Senator wants sections of GAO report on Iraq declassified

The auditors did find the total number of attacks targeting coalition forces began to decline in June, after an upward swing between March and May. But daily attacks in July still were roughly equal to the number of attacks in February, the start of the military's troop surge campaign in Iraq. The report states that the classified version of the assessment "provides further information on trends associated with violence in Iraq."

David Walker, U.S. comptroller general and GAO chief, said Friday he expects a report to be released by the White House next week to show a "much more dramatic decline" in the levels of sectarian violence than what GAO deduced from its investigation...

During a break in the hearing, Walker acknowledged to reporters that the Bush administration could have made some of the report's classified material available to the public: "I think certain information in this report arguably should not have been classified because there are some examples of where there is information that has been classified that have been in public speeches that have been given by various officials in the Pentagon previously."

Specifically, Walker questioned the Bush administration's decision to classify some information on the number of Iraqi forces that can operate independently. Whether to declassify information in the GAO report on the levels of sectarian violence "depends on how much emphasis the administration wants to put on that" when it sends its Iraq progress report to Capitol Hill next week, Walker said. "If they want to place great emphasis on that, then I think there's a need for transparency," he added.

Read the rest at Government Execuitve

Related Link:
Pentagon: 12,000 troop increase above 160,000 'surge' troop levels to extend into December; 40,000 troops added since February

Related Link:
Jones Commission: U.S. should lighten profile in Iraq, but Iraqi forces 12-18 months away from taking control of security

Related Link:
Jones Commission recommends disbanding national police for sectarianism; Pentagon refutes; Iraq says no

Related Link:
GAO report confirms most benchmarks unmet in Iraq

Related Link:
NIE: 'Security will continue to improve modestly during the next 6 to 12 months but... levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high'