WASHINGTON — Inadequate supplies of food, water, electricity and healthcare have replaced security as the primary concern of Iraqi citizens, the Pentagon says in a progress report Tuesday.
But nearly six years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the nation's long-term stability remains threatened by disagreements among its power brokers, the report says.
The quarterly progress report, required by Congress, was the final assessment submitted before President Bush leaves office next week.
By the end of November, it says, security incidents had reached their lowest weekly number since the U.S. military began systematically counting attacks on military targets and civilians in January 2004. In Baghdad, the number of attacks declined 72% from the same period in 2007.
"The security environment in Iraq continues to improve as violence has dropped dramatically in the last 20 months and normal life is returning to the country," the report says. "Many residents now express greater hope for the future and are demanding a better standard of living."
The Pentagon reports initially were criticized as unrealistically upbeat, and became more grim and realistic over time. In the last year, as security across Iraq improved, the reports have grown more positive, but have retained a cautious tone.
The basic findings of the latest report, the 14th so far, were broadly accepted by Iraq experts, but some warned that the situation remained fragile and that progress could easily be reversed as the U.S. withdraws its forces.
"There has been unmistakable progress in Iraq," said Vikram J. Singh, a scholar at the Center for a New American Security. "It is probably true the average Iraqi now has more concerns over the quality of life rather than mere survival. The danger is none of the underlying political challenges in Iraq have been addressed."
The Pentagon report acknowledges that political tensions remain and have continued to stall key pieces of legislation other than the recent U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, which set the term for America's military departure.
"The underlying sources of instability in Iraq have yet to be resolved," the report says. "Iraq remains fragile because its major power brokers do not share a unified national vision."
The report is available at the Pentagon's website, www.defenselink.mil/pubs.