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Progress in the Iraqi Security Forces

What the Jones Report really says.

12:00 AM, Sep 6, 2007 • By FREDERICK W. KAGAN
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SOME IN THE MEDIA have been remarkably quick to report on leaked copies of reports about Iraq before the average person has a chance to read them. There is a reason, apart from the usual journalistic desire to be first with a story. The reports often don't say what the reporters want them to. First leaks about the National Intelligence Estimate and the report of the Government Accountability Office turned out to have painted them darker--and in the case of the NIE much darker--than they actually were. That is even more true of the report of Retired Marine General Jim Jones about the state of the Iraqi Security Forces.

The Washington Post rushed out its story with the headline: "Jones Report: Iraqi Security Forces Not Ready: Logistical Sufficiency Is at Least Two Years Away." The New York Times was somewhat more circumspect in its title: "Panel Sees More Than a Year Before Iraq Can Handle Security," but not in its lead paragraph:

A report by an independent commission created by Congress says that it will be at least 12 to 18 months before Iraq's army and police can take charge of the country's security, pushing further into the future estimates of when American forces can step back from their leading role. The finding is the latest in a series of ever-lengthening predictions by American officals about when Iraqi forces might be able to operate independently."

The Washington Post made it sound even worse: the report "estimates that '[the Iraqi army] will not be ready to independently fulfill their security role within the next 12 to 18 months' without a substantial U.S. military presence. Logistical self-sufficiency, which it describes as key to independent Iraqi operations, is at least two years away, the report says." Worse still, "the report, which emphasizes the failure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to achieve key political benchmarks, says that violence will not end without political reconciliation." Well. Let's just see what the report actually says about the key issues. The following are direct quotations, with phrases of particular interest in bold: