The Path Of Progress In Iraq

Just some data points:

At a news conference Friday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, said the number of battle-ready Iraqi battalions able to fight independently has dropped from 10 to six in recent months despite an increase in U.S. training efforts.

Pace said the readiness of the Iraqi fighting units was not an issue to be "overly concerned" about because the problem was partly attributable to losses in the field.

"As units operate in the field, they have casualties, they consume vehicles and equipment," Pace said.

In another development Friday, Bush's top spokesman appeared resigned to the fact that the Iraqi parliament is going to take August off, even though it has just eight weeks to show progress on military, political and other benchmarks designated by the United States.

However, Tony Snow said, "Let's also see what happens because quite often when parliaments do not meet, they are also continuing meetings on the side. And there will be progress, I'm sure on a number of fronts."

On two critical benchmarks - training of Iraqi troops and moves toward constructing the semblance of a national government - Iraq is going backwards not forwards.