Securing, Stabilizing, and Rebuilding Iraq:

Key Issues for Congressional Oversight

GAO-07-308SP: Published: Jan 9, 2007. Publicly Released: Jan 9, 2007.

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Joseph A. Christoff
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Office of Public Affairs
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As the United States reviews its plans to secure, stabilize, and rebuild Iraq, GAO has enclosed a series of issue papers for Congressional consideration in developing its oversight agenda for the 110th Congress and analyzing the President's revised strategy for Iraq. These papers are based on the continuing work of the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the 67 Iraq-related reports and testimonies we have provided to the Congress since May 2003. Iraq has had three successful elections, adopted a constitution, and installed its first elected government. At the same time, since the initial ground offensive ended in 2003, the costs to secure and stabilize Iraq have grown substantially, as has the level of violence that afflicts Iraqi society. Such violence stems from an insurgency that has grown more complex and lethal over the past 3 and 1/2 years and the Sunni-Shi'a conflict, which escalated dramatically in 2006. This instability complicates meaningful political reconciliation among Iraq's religious and tribal groups, reduces the effectiveness of U.S. and Iraqi reconstruction and capacity-building efforts, and diminishes the hopes and expectations of an Iraqi people without adequate jobs, water, fuel, and electricity. Increasing Iraqi security forces and transferring security responsibilities to them have not resulted in reduced violence. Rather, attacks increased throughout 2006. Although more Iraqi troops have been trained and equipped, high absenteeism and divided loyalties have limited their overall effectiveness. At the same time, our service members are working with great courage and diligence to perform the roles the President has asked of them. Notwithstanding their noble efforts, the U.S. military has sustained significant casualties. In addition, wear and tear on military equipment and growing replacement costs have risen substantially. The resulting stress and strain on American forces have reduced troop readiness levels and the availability of reserve personnel. The U.S. rebuilding effort in Iraq has focused on helping the Iraqi government establish a sound economy with the capacity to deliver essential services. Although Iraq's economy has grown and U.S. efforts have helped restore portions of Iraq's infrastructure, the poor security environment and mismanagement have diminished the overall results of U.S. investments. Iraq will need U.S. and international support, including political and economic incentives, to strengthen its fragile government institutions, which have thus far failed to adequately deter corruption, stimulate employment, or deliver essential services.

The enclosures discuss these issues and other critical challenges that the United States and its allies face in the ongoing struggle to help the Iraqis stabilize, secure, and rebuild Iraq. Forthright answers to the oversight questions we pose herein are needed from the U.S. agencies responsible for executing the President's strategy. Congress and the American people need complete and transparent information on the progress made toward achieving U.S. security, economic, and diplomatic goals in Iraq to reasonably judge our past efforts and determine future directions. It is also important that the U.S. government account for the funds that it expended on behalf of the Iraqi government through the Development Fund for Iraq. After all, the Coalition Provisional Authority had a fiduciary responsibility to properly safeguard, use, and account for these funds. These enclosures focus on the U.S. strategy and costs of operations in Iraq; security, governance, and reconstruction issues; the readiness of U.S. military forces; and acquisition outcomes. They are based on our completed and ongoing Iraq-related work, and incorporate information from official documents and relevant officials from the various agencies involved in stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq, including the Departments of Defense, Energy, State, and the Treasury; the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Army Corps of Engineers; the multinational force; and the Defense Intelligence Agency. As part of this work, we made multiple visits to Iraq during 2006.

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