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Data Points

The Pentagon is missing one of the most important metrics for success in Iraq.

11:00 PM, Mar 8, 2006 • By VANCE SERCHUK
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The Pentagon's reluctance to engineer the ethnic and sectarian composition of the Iraqi security forces is made all the more bizarre by the fact that it has displayed no such reticence when it comes to parallel efforts in Afghanistan. There, the indigenous army that Washington began building in 2002 was initially dominated by a single group--the Panjshiri Tajiks who had led the Northern Alliance against the Taliban and then seized control of Kabul. It was against Panjshiri objections that the United States insisted on imposing rough ethnic quotas, creating carefully mixed units of Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazara, Turkmen, and Uzbeks.

The result is arguably Afghanistan's first real national institution--a strong, multiethnic army clearly distinguishable from the parochial militias the country is accustomed to seeing. This has meant that the Afghan army is not just an instrument in the military campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda; it is also a rallying point for national pride--proof the country can transcend the dueling fiefdoms that have, until recently, divided it.

It's to the credit of Congress that it has been playing a more assertive role over the past months in overseeing the Bush administration's conduct of the war in Iraq. But now that the Pentagon is at last providing regular reports on its efforts, it's time to take the next step--and make sure the metrics that Congress is receiving are the ones that really count.

Vance Serchuk is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.