Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

26 April 2007

Progress of Iraq Surge To Be Assessed in September

U.S. general cites recent "notable successes," tough challenges ahead

Washington -- Coalition forces in Iraq have had “some notable successes” in recent months, but the situation remains “exceedingly complex and very tough,” the senior U.S. commander in Iraq told Pentagon reporters April 26.

Army General David Petraeus also said that in early September the United States will conduct a full assessment of the Iraq mission’s progress and then will make recommendations as a result of that assessment.

“I want to make clear that there is vastly more work to be done across the board and in many areas,” Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, said in a Pentagon news conference. “This effort may get harder before it gets easier.”

The Iraqi government is not the hoped-for “government of national unity,” but instead is “comprised of political leaders from different parties that often default to narrow agendas and a zero-sum approach to legislation,” Petraeus said. This makes it difficult to build national institutions and enact desperately needed laws, he said.

Al-Qaida terrorists in Iraq have become “a formidable foe with considerable resilience and a capability to produce horrific attacks,” Petraeus said. Approximately 80 percent to 90 percent of suicide bombings in Iraq are caused by foreign fighters, he said. Extremist Iraqi militias also remain a problem, and Sunni insurgents “are still forces to be reckoned with,” he said. He also said Iranians are involved deeply in the insurgency, though the level of involvement by senior members of the Iranian government is unclear.

On the other hand, Petraeus said, the increase of Iraqi and U.S. forces announced by President Bush in January has reduced sectarian murders by two-thirds. “Beyond that, we are seeing a revival of markets, renewed commerce, the return of some displaced families and the slow resumption of services,” Petraeus said.

“The situation in Iraq is, in sum, exceedingly complex and very tough.  Success will take continued commitment, perseverance, and sacrifice.”

The recent surge of U.S. forces has resulted in higher casualty rates as troops actively patrol Baghdad neighborhoods to establish a secure backdrop for the Iraq government to establish control over the capital. Petraeus said casualty rates of Iraqi forces are “two to three times ours or even more.”

Visiting Iraq April 19-20, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker to discuss the Iraq surge, which will boost the U.S. commitment to more than 160,000 troops by early June. During the meeting with Gates, it was agreed that Petraeus and Crocker in early September “would provide an assessment of the situation in Iraq with respect to our mission and offer recommendations on the way ahead.”

The assessment probably will focus on security, economics, politics and governance, and rule of law, he said.

One reporter asked Petraeus whether the September assessment would be truthful if the general and ambassador determine troop levels should be reduced because the mission is not succeeding.

Petraeus replied, “I have an obligation to some wonderful young men and women in uniform, and a lot of civilians by the way, who are serving in Iraq and who deserve a forthright assessment from the folks at the top about the situation on the ground, and that’s what I’m going to provide them.”

Iraqis, Petraeus said, are “an exceedingly resilient people.” One recent evening in Baghdad, when a particularly devastating car bomb went off, Petraeus said he and a Washington Post reporter took a helicopter ride over the city at dusk.

“There were three big amusement parks operational,” Petraeus said of his flight over the city. “I’m talking about, you know, roller coaster kinds of parks -- these were not just a couple little merry-go-rounds in small neighborhood parks. Restaurants in some parts of the city were booming. Lots of markets were open. The people were on the street. There were – there had to be a thousand soccer [the American term for football] games ongoing. They’re watering the grass in various professional soccer fields – the soccer leagues.”

“You know,” Petraeus added, “all of this is actually so foreign, I think, in the mind of most people who see the news and, of course, do see that day’s explosion or something like that. And actually, there is a city of 7 million people in which life goes on. And again, citizens are determined to carry on with their life.”

A transcript of Petraeus’ remarks at the briefing is available on the Department of Defense Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Iraq Update.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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