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American Forces Press Service

National Unity Office to Work With New Iraqi Government

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, May 21, 2006 Coalition officials have set up an office within Multinational Force Iraq to help the new Iraqi government take hold.

The Iraqis are calling the government - a mix of people from all locations, sects and ethnicities in the country - a "unity government." This goes with the position at MNFI and the American embassy that unity must happen before security can become a reality.

To promote this idea, Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, MNFI's deputy chief of staff for strategic effects, spoke yesterday in an interview about how the new national unity office will work with the fledgling Iraqi government.

The office is an outgrowth of the belief Multinational Force Iraq commander Army Gen. George Casey has that there are three pillars for the government to be successful: unity, security and prosperity.

"Help the Iraqi government achieve unity and you will also promote security," Caldwell said. "Once that is in place, prosperity will surely follow."

In coming up with programs, the office looks to activities, events or programs that they can sponsor to facilitate, support and help the government achieve unity.

The office stood up the end of April, well in advance of yesterday's swearing in of the national unity government. "As the government of Iraq went to stand up its institutions, (General Casey) wanted some counterparts in the command ready to interface with the government to help them achieve their goals," Caldwell said.

The office has policy and program oversight of the different activities within the Multinational Force Iraq headquarters that provide assistance and support to the Iraqi government. Casey and Caldwell want a coordinated response, and they want all portions of the command to know what others are doing.

One example of the way the office may work is with militias. There are a number of reasons for militias to form in Iraq, Caldwell said. Some form in response to perceived shortcomings in security - a sort of armed neighborhood watch, where militias take on the responsibility for defending a particular area.

Some militias form to oppose the current government or leadership, Caldwell said. Others form because they support terrorism and are trying to incite violence. Still other militia groups form for sectarian purposes, he noted.

Once formed "they become armed and organized and all try to achieve their disparate goals," the general said. "So if you want unity within a nation, you're going to have to come up with some sort of a disarm, demobilize and reintegrate plan for the militiamen. The Iraqi government is going to have to set the priority and pass the legislation, but this is something we can help with."

The inauguration of the new government changes the relationship among the U.S. Embassy here, the Multinational Force Iraq and the government of Iraq.

"What's unique about the inauguration of the Iraqi prime minister and government is that we also move into a phase where the U.S. Embassy mission assumes greater importance," Caldwell said. "We (the military) will assume a more supporting role in Iraq than before. Our being out in the forefront will continue its downward trend as the U.S. Embassy does more what an embassy does in any other country of the world."

This does not mean a massive, immediate drop in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, he said. The military will continue to play large parts in reconstruction efforts, with ministry assistance teams and with provincial reconstruction teams to name just a few.

"The embassy will continue to need the military support," he said. "They don't have the number of people to handle these jobs on a continuing basis."

Caldwell said the national unity office underscores the fact that U.S. military leaders understand that decisions in Iraq are complex.

"There is no one solution for anything in this country, and everything is interdependent and interrelated, just as it is in any country of the world," he said. "To say the solution is simply 'security' is inadequate and shallow in thinking."

The office will look at a wide range of issues in the country and help formulate policies and programs that will help the embassy and the government of Iraq move forward. "It's a series of questions," Caldwell said. "Here's where we are today, here's where we would like to be. Why aren't we there right now, and what are the things we could do to get us there?"

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