Iraq has made "satisfactory" progress on only half of its 18 benchmarks for success, the White House told Congress today, hours after President Bush said the country’s advancements merited a strong US military presence there. Since the July progress report, only one benchmark—reintegrating Baathists into the government—has been upgraded from unsatisfactory to satisfactory, the AP reports.
Administration officials said there hadn’t been enough time to make sufficient progress, and Tony Snow downplayed the 18 formal benchmarks, hyping other markers of success like the sharing of oil revenues and local reconciliation efforts. The discouraging assessment, the BBC says, complicates Bush’s efforts to sell his strategy to skeptical Americans. (Read more White House stories.)