DOD Should Provide Congress and the American Public with Monthly Data on Enemy-Initiated Attacks in Iraq in a Timely Manner

GAO-07-1048R: Published: Sep 28, 2007. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 2007.

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In January 2007, the President stated that the high levels of violence in Iraq had overwhelmed the political gains that the Iraqis had made and required a new U.S. strategy for stabilizing the country. The new strategy recognized that until the Iraqi people have a basic measure of security, they would not be able to make significant and sustainable political and economic progress. To help Iraqi leaders provide security for their population, the United States deployed about 30,000 additional troops to Iraq during the spring of 2007, bringing the total number of U.S. military personnel up to about 160,000 as of mid-June 2007. Enemy-initiated attacks data are a key indicator of progress in improving Iraq's security situation, an important condition that, according to the administration, must be met before the United States can reduce its military presence in Iraq. While attacks data alone may not provide a complete picture of Iraq's security situation, Department of Defense (DOD) and Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I) officials state that the data provide a reasonably sound depiction of general security trends in the country. Since 2004, we have periodically provided this information to Congress in classified and unclassified briefings, reports, and testimonies. In response to GAO's requests, various DOD components--most recently the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)--have assisted GAO in publicly reporting trends in the security situation by declassifying the attacks data on a monthly basis. In our report on the status of the achievement of Iraqi benchmarks, we provided attacks data through July 31, 2007.2 This report provides data through August 31, 2007.

Overall security conditions in Iraq have deteriorated and grown more complex, since May 2003, as evidenced by the increased numbers of attacks and the Sunni-Shi'a sectarian strife that followed the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. Enemy-initiated attacks against the coalition and its Iraqi partners increased through October 2006 and have remained at high levels since that time. These attacks have increased around major religious and political events, including Ramadan3 and elections. Coalition forces are still the primary target of attacks, but the number of attacks on Iraqi security forces and civilians also has increased since 2003.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 2007, GAO recommended DOD should, on a monthly basis, make data on the enemy-initiated attacks available to Congress, the American public, and GAO in a timely manner. DOD had provided the attacks data in its quarterly reports to Congress, but the data were not presented in a consistent, time-based manner. DOD concurred with our recommendation, stating that it would continue to provide the attack data to Congress and GAO on a monthly basis, and to the American public in its quarterly report to Congress, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq. DOD began to provide time-based attacks data in its quarterly report to Congress--first by month in September 2007 then by week in December 2007--and made it available to the American public at

    Recommendation: Given the importance of congressional oversight and the American public's interest in progress in stabilizing Iraq, the Department of Defense should, on a monthly basis, make data on the enemy-initiated attacks available to Congress, the American public, and GAO in a timely manner.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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