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American Forces Press Service

Americans Can't Neglect Signs of Progress in Iraq, Rice Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2005 – Americans cannot forget the progress being made in Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said from Jerusalem today.

Rice took time off from her trip to the Middle East to speak to Fox News Channel. She said Americans cannot ignore the political and military successes in Iraq.

"I would say to the American people, 'Yes, this is very hard and very difficult, but we are making a lot of progress in what will be a strategic breakthrough for the United States, which is to have a different kind of Middle East'" Rice said.

Recent polls show support for operations in Iraq is dropping among the American people. Casualty lists, car bombs and suicide bombers dominate the news, but Rice said there are clear signs of progress. Among them is the capture of "the Emir of Mosul" -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's lieutenant Abu Talha.

The Iraqi security forces are growing in numbers and sophistication, Rice said. Iraqi forces took the lead in security for the January elections, for example. Since then, Iraqi forces have taken on increasing security burdens. The 40th Brigade of the Iraqi army handles security for much of Baghdad. Marines participating in Operation Spear in Karabilah are operating with Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi security forces now consist of about 170,000 trained and equipped soldiers and police. As those forces grow and gain experience, the security responsibility for coalition forces will shrink, Rice said.

Rice repeatedly made the point that "insurgencies are defeated not just militarily, they are defeated politically."

The Iraqi people are engaged in a political process that will result in a united and democratic Iraq, Rice said. A deal reached in the past week brought more Sunni Arab representatives into writing the new Iraqi constitution. The deadline for the constitution is Aug. 15, with a referendum on the document to be held by Oct. 15. If the constitution is accepted, Iraqis are to hold elections for a permanent government by Dec. 15.

But not all is rosy, the secretary admitted. "(Iraqis) are going to continue to suffer, I'm afraid, for some time from these insurgents and terrorists who wish to kill innocent Iraqis because they have no other alternative," she said. "That does not mean (the terrorists) are going to win the battle for Iraq, because that is being won by the Iraqi people on the political front."

But even on the military side there is progress. Rice said more and more Iraqis are providing coalition and Iraqi forces intelligence to go after the insurgents and terrorists. "They don't want these terrorists and so-called insurgents to blow up their children standing at a school. They don't want these terrorists and so-called insurgents to kill the brave men and women who are volunteering for the Iraqi security forces," she said. "The Iraqi people are not supportive of these insurgents."

The terrorists can continue their bloody attacks, "but what they are losing is the Iraqi people," she said. "And that is the most important loss you can inflict on an insurgency."

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