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Military

02 August 2006

Despite Challenges, Iraqi Authorities Act To Stabilize Country

Rumsfeld, General Pace highlight positive security trends, civil achievements

Washington – Terrorists will continue to hide behind innocents and stage attacks calculated to maximize media coverage and public outcry, but they will not weaken the coalition’s resolve to defeat them, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told journalists at an August 2 Pentagon press briefing.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Iraq, Rumsfeld said, quoting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s July 26 speech in Washington before a joint session of Congress, where he said that “should democracy be allowed to fail in Iraq and terror [be] permitted to triumph, then the war on terror will never be won elsewhere.”  (See related article.)

“The enemy knows this as well,” the secretary said, “and they're waging a psychological war of attrition. …They want us to believe that perseverance is futile rather than necessary; to focus on our casualties and not on the people causing the casualties; to focus on what might happen if we stay in Iraq as opposed to the dire consequences were we to leave prematurely.”

Army General George Casey, commander of the Multi-National Force – Iraq, continues to work closely with Iraqi authorities to support Maliki’s ongoing initiative to secure Baghdad.  (See related article.)

As part of this effort, 3,500 more coalition troops and 5,500 additional Iraqi forces have been deployed in recent weeks to augment security in the capital, Rumsfeld said.  He added that currently there are 275,000 coalition-trained Iraqi soldiers and police keeping the peace in the country; by the end of the year, there will by 325,000.  (See related article.)

Violence from terrorists, as well as sectarian groups and former Ba’athists remains a problem, Rumsfeld said, but it is important to remember that most attacks are confined to four of the country’s 18 provinces.  Furthermore, he observed, Iraq’s currency is stable, hospitals and schools are reopening and people are going about their lives in most of the country.

Looking forward, Rumsfeld sees these signs, as well as efforts by the government to move forward with a national reconciliation process and to take steps toward building closer cooperation with its neighbors, as positive indicators of Iraq’s long-term success. 

“Despite all of the difficulties, there are also some good trend lines that are occurring and I think the period ahead is an important period,” Rumsfeld said.

AFGHANISTAN ON TRACK, SAYS PACE

Rumsfeld was joined by Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan to observe the transition of command for security operations from coalition forces to the NATO alliance.

Coalition forces, Pace said, are “proud of their Afghan national army counterparts. They want to serve side by side with them, and they're very proud to describe the heroism of the Afghan army.”

Pace reported that U.S. forces remain committed to strengthening Afghan army and police units and growing military-to-military ties between Afghanistan security forces and their neighbor to the south, Pakistan, in order to engage Taliban forces more effectively on both sides of the border.

On July 31, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assumed command of the southern region of Afghanistan from U.S.-led coalition forces.  In addition to ongoing efforts to support the Afghan government, some U.S. forces will participate in the alliance’s ISAF mission under the command of Lieutenant General David Richards of the United Kingdom.  (See related article.)  

“As NATO moves more and more troops into Afghanistan, we're going to see more and more opportunity to help, especially the southern sector, regain its footing against the Taliban,” Pace said.

For more information, see Iraq Update, Rebuilding Afghanistan and International Security.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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