As a top American general and the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq delivered their Iraq progress reports on Capitol Hill today, the State Department failed to make publicly available a weekly report it produces on the status of efforts to stabilize and develop the war-torn country.
The Huffington Post obtained a copy of the document, which showed positive developments in some areas, but also offered examples of the political and security challenges that Iraq continues to face.
The Iraq Weekly Status Report has been published by the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs on its website since 2005. The website says that it is a "comprehensive status report on Iraq" that "provides weekly updates in the eight key areas identified as pillars of U.S. Government policy."
One regular consumer of the status report said that the State Department has often been behind schedule in recent weeks.
"Over the last four to six weeks, it hasn't been as regularly available on the website as it has been in the past," said Jason Campbell, a Senior Research Assistant at the Brookings Institution who is a co-author of the think-tank's Iraq Index. "I've been doing this for about nine months now and like clockwork it was there on Thursday or Friday morning."
But a State Department spokesperson insisted that there was nothing unusual about the status report not yet being released.
The last published report, from August 29, is "pretty current," State Dept. spokesperson Nancy Beck told the Huffington Post Monday.
She said there was no specific delay. "Every seven to ten days is the usual time frame."
The Huffington Post obtained a copy of the September 5 edition of the document, which presents updates on the eight areas as Power Point slides. Other consumers of the report, who are subscribed to an unclassified State Department e-mail list, said they continue to receive the document from the State Department every Thursday during most weeks.
The 34-page document points to some areas of progress for the week ending Wednesday, September 5. For instance, it highlights the killing of an al-Qaida in Iraq leader and the detention of a group of insurgents who were carrying out car bombings. It also points out some progress in infrastructure and economic development projects, and efforts to rein in inflation.
But the report also highlights the setbacks Iraq still faces, and raises questions about some of the positive statements made by Amb. Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus during their testimony on Monday.
The status report notes that Iraq's Council of Representatives (CoR) "has not yet taken up key benchmark legislation critical to American support ahead of a report to Congress on progress in Iraq." Crocker told members of Congress on Monday that the increase in U.S. forces has "changed the dynamic" politically, giving Iraqis the "time and space to reflect on the kind of country they want."
The report states that 51 were killed during an August 28 shootout between rival Shi'a forces in Karbala, and that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had accused top Iraqi anti-corruption official Radhi al-Radhi of fleeing the country after he was himself accused of corruption.
Crocker insisted on Monday that there was serious commitment among Iraq's political leadership to overcoming the country's difficulties.
"I do believe that Iraq's leaders have the will to tackle the country's pressing problems, although it will take longer than we originally anticipated because of the environment and the gravity of the issues before them," he said. "Prime Minister al-Maliki and the other Iraqi leaders....approach the task with a deep sense of commitment and patriotism."
The State Dept. report from early September says the Iraqi council had "reconvened with 164 members and adjourned after 90 minutes," but omitted that the Council of Representatives has 275 elected members, leaving more than 100 who were absent for the short session.