For too long, the President has been looking at this war through rose-colored glasses and given the American people an unreasonably sunny picture of progress in Iraq. We need to craft a rational way forward that is based on objectivity, not wishful thinking.

Congress asked for an unvarnished up-or-down assessment as to whether 18 key benchmarks have been achieved after more than four years of American involvement in this conflict. Our investigative arm tells us that 15 have not. The Government Accountability Office’s sobering analysis presents a grim picture of the strategic trajectory in Iraq. Political reconciliation is not imminent. The Iraqis are nowhere near ready to take full responsibility for their security.

The truth is, success in Iraq depends more on the Iraqis than our brave soldiers. Our forces are doing what it takes to succeed, but Iraq’s political leaders are not.

Next week, the White House is expected to focus on pockets of reduced violence in Iraq in its report to Congress. It is important that we take notice of reports of tactical progress in certain areas, but it is even more critical that we step back and take an honest look at strategic trends. In this regard, the GAO report captures Iraq’s tragic direction.

For the best interests of America’s national security, we ought to place the most credence in objective outside sources like this GAO assessment and today’s Jones Commission report on the poor state of Iraqi security forces so we can craft a more realistic road forward.