Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New Pentagon Report Released: Violence Up, Jobs Needed

The violence just keeps getting worse. According to a just-released Pentagon report, injuries and deaths among US and coalition forces in Iraq rose 32% during the period from mid-August to mid-October over the previous three months. The average number of attacks each week and the average number of people killed or wounded in those attacks were at their highest levels since the United States handed over power to the Iraqi government in June 2004.

The Pentagon report places much of the blame for this increase in violence on the rise of ethnic and sectarian militias and other armed groups. The report specifically refers to the militia led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr noting that it has replaced al-Qaeda as the biggest security threat in Iraq.

In terms of the economy, the Pentagon once again acknowledges the importance of job creation:
"High unemployment continued to feed sectarian, insurgent, and criminal violence. Although definitive data are not available on the actual unemployment rate, it has been an issue that has had a significant effect on the security environment. The Iraqi government, along with Coalition and international help, must create an effective strategy to provide jobs. This program must be seen as fair and non-sectarian by common Iraqis. It must produce tangible results for a plurality of Iraqis or it may decrease the legitimacy of the Government of Iraq and have little effect on the level of violence."

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Pentagon has been proactive in this regard. For the past 6 months, the Pentagon has been going around and preparing to open approximately 200 factories located all over Iraq, including in some of the most dangerous cities. Oil production and electricity services are still hampered. The report also makes mention that reconstruction efforts have boosted capacity to provide drinking water to 5.2 million people. However as Justin Rood of TPM Muckracker notes, a GAO report released this past Friday claims that 60% of that water is lost due to leaking, contamination and theft.

Another interesting tidbit from the report: While most organizations, pundits and politicians have already adopted the term "civil war,"the Pentagon says the situation in Iraq is "far more complex than the term 'civil war' implies." It goes on to say, "However, conditions that could lead to civil war do exist, especially in and around Baghdad," and the Iraqi people are fearful of civil war.

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