Missouri’s leading military expert in Congress says it’s difficult to assess how well the military surge is working in Iraq.

West-Central Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton has been trying to evaluate the surge, which sent 20,000 more troops into Baghdad. Skelton says he’s getting mixed signals from those in Iraq as to whether the surge has been successful or even partially successful.

Skelton, a Democrat, is chairman of the US House Armed Services Committee. He spoke with the Missourinet during a stop in Jefferson City. He says it’s difficult for the Bush Administration now to overcome past mistakes. Skelton counts as mistakes dismissing the Iraqi Army, closing Iraqi factories and not adequately guarding ammunition supplies, which allowed insurgents to arm themselves. Skelton emphasizes that the mistakes were made on the civilian side, not the military one. He says the military is performing well in Iraq.

Skelton says this is no longer a military matter, but a political one. He says it’s up to the Iraqi government to take charge. Skelton says the best the American people can hope for is a responsible government and the Iraqi military and police taking over the country’s own security. Skelton adds, "It just doesn’t look very, very bright as we speak."

This is a crucial week. The Senate likely will take up the Defense Authorization bill, which will give critics of the Bush Administration a platform. By Sunday, the administration must submit a progress report on the goals established in January when President Bush decided to increase troop levels.

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)