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GAO Urges Congress To Step Up Iraq Oversight, Seek Info January 10, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The Government Accountability Office, the watchdog arm of Congress, on Tuesday urged legislators to step up their oversight of operations in Iraq as the war there drags on.

For U.S. efforts in Iraq to succeed, the White House needs to have a clear picture of what its goals are, how much they will cost and how to measure progress, the GAO said in a wide-ranging new report. The report concludes that so far, those basic benchmarks aren’t being met.

For example, the U.S. government has trained about 323,000 Iraqi troops since the conflict began. But those new forces apparently aren’t making much of an impact.

“Increasing Iraqi security forces and transferring security responsibilities to them have not resulted in reduced violence. Rather, attacks increased throughout 2006,” Comptroller General David Walker said in a letter to the congressional leaders.

The Iraq war now costs about $8 billion per month, not including a host of other spending related to the war on terror. The GAO said Congress has appropriated about $495 billion in war costs since 2001, but inadequate reporting practices make it hard to track where the money goes.

Unless the Defense Department fixes its financial management, Congress and the administration won’t have reliable information on what the war really costs, the GAO said. This has long-term ramifications, the report said.

“U.S. military and diplomatic commitments in Iraq will continue for the foreseeable future and are likely to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars,” the GAO said.

Budgets aren’t the only blur for lawmakers and oversight panels, the GAO said. The report said the Defense Department isn’t releasing enough information about its war operations either.

Much of the necessary information is classified and ambiguous, the GAO said. For example, GAO investigators have only been able to see classified, aggregate reports on Iraqi troop training or violence. This makes it tough to see what effect U.S. efforts are really having on Iraqi security, the report said.

On the web: The full title of the report is “Securing, Stabilizing and Rebuilding Iraq: Key Issues For Congressional Oversight”. It is available on GAO’s Web site, http://www.gao.gov

By Rebecca Christie; Dow Jones Newswires

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