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White House report shows meager gains in Iraq

  • Story Highlights
  • White House releases mandated report on Iraq
  • Number of satisfactory benchmarks rises by one to nine from interim report
  • Iraqi government's efforts on "de-Baathification" now satisfactory
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House report to U.S. lawmakers on progress in Iraq showed meager gains on benchmarks that Congress established for the Iraqi government.

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Army 1st Sgt. Kenny Power watches in Baghdad as President Bush gives his speech on the Iraq war.

President Bush's report, which was released Friday, grades Iraq as showing satisfactory progress on nine of the 18 benchmarks set for the Iraqi government.

The report said Iraqi leaders have shown unsatisfactory progress on seven benchmarks, including four "with progress on some aspects while not on others."

Two benchmarks "are not rated because the necessary preconditions are not yet present," the report said.

The Iraq war benchmarks -- laying out political, security and economic objectives -- were part of a supplemental funding bill that Congress approved in May.

Iraq has achieved satisfactory progress in ensuring that outlaws have no safe haven and working toward the formation of semiautonomous regions, the report said. But when it comes to reducing sectarian violence and eliminating militia control of local security, results have been unsatisfactory.

The term satisfactory does not necessarily indicate "satisfactory accomplishment," the administration said. The report said Iraq received a satisfactory mark when the data trended toward a "satisfactory accomplishment in the near term."

While the report indicates limited progress overall, it is decidedly more upbeat than an independent audit this month by the Government Accountability Office, which said Iraq had met three benchmarks, partially met four and failed to meet 11.

The assessments in Friday's report were similar to those the White House made in July in which the Iraqi government showed satisfactory gains in eight areas but was unsatisfactory in eight others. It had mixed results in two more.

"People should not expect dramatic changes only 58 days after the president's initial assessment," White House press secretary Dana Perino said Thursday before the latest release.

"We're keeping it in context," a senior administration official told CNN. "Back in December, things were spiraling down. By July, the report had leveled off and stabilized."

The White House based the report on consultations with the State and Defense departments, Central Command commander Adm. William Fallon and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to the country.

Petraeus and Crocker testified to Congress this week in advance of the report's release.

"Ambassador Crocker said all benchmarks are trending upward but the trend lines are not steep enough," Perino said, referring to the envoy's testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

White House spokesman Tony Snow noted the president's report shows improvement since July, when the Iraqi government was found not to be making satisfactory progress on "de-Baathification" -- allowing officials from Saddam Hussein's Baath Party back into the government. The report released Friday cites satisfactory progress in that regard.

"Expecting them [Iraqis] to have all this figured out would have been like expecting the USA to have civil rights issues figured out one year into the government. This is not bad," a senior administration official said, citing an analogy Crocker made during his Senate testimony.

However, the GAO report noted the Iraq government has not passed formal de-Baathification legislation and gave the Iraqis an "unmet" grade on that benchmark.

While the White House's July report gave Iraq a straight unsatisfactory rating in ensuring military commanders could act without political interference, the new report gave the Baghdad government mixed marks, saying military commanders were given more independence to coordinate effectively with U.S. commanders, but that political intervention in the chain of command continued.

And the report indicated improvement in ensuring the Iraqi security forces provide evenhanded enforcement of the law. In July, the security forces were judged to be failing across the board in this area, but Friday's report gave the army a satisfactory rating while saying that the police forces continued to fall short.

In a televised address Thursday night, Bush expressed dissatisfaction at the pace of political change, calling on the Iraqi government to show "the same determination to achieving reconciliation" that it has to improving security.

"This is an enormous undertaking after more than three decades of tyranny and division," Bush said. "The government has not met its own legislative benchmarks, and, in my meetings with Iraqi leaders, I have made it clear that they must."

He also called on the Iraqi people to "demand that your leaders make the tough choices needed to achieve reconciliation."

But Bush said security conditions on the ground in Iraq have improved sufficiently to start bringing some U.S. troops home, and he urged Americans divided over the war to "come together." Video Watch as Bush calls his guiding principle on troop reductions "return on success" »

Democrats vowed to fight for a change of course in Iraq.

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Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, said Bush's speech "does not amount to real change."

"We intend to exercise our constitutional duties and profoundly change our military involvement in Iraq," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux and Candy Crowley contributed to this report.

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