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American Forces Press Service

Pace Briefs Japanese Reporters on Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

TOKYO, March 21, 2007 – The Baghdad security plan is buying the Iraqi government the chance it needs to prove to its citizens that it can lead, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace told Japanese reporters that the plan, which calls for a 21,500-man increase in U.S. combat troops in Iraq and three Iraqi brigades, will allow the other steps necessary for stability in the country to take place.

“There are three pieces to the puzzle: security, governance and economics,” Pace said to reporters during a roundtable at the New Sanno Hotel, a U.S. military morale, welfare and recreation facility, here. “You can never totally eliminate terrorist incidents. But they can get the number low enough so the government functions.”

He said success would be to reduce the number of incidents to the point where it becomes a police matter, just as if there were an incident in Tokyo it would be a police matter. “To get to that you must have some additional security,” and thus the surge, the general said.

But the surge must be coupled with leadership and jobs, “otherwise, all you are doing is providing security for a period of time and when the troops go away, the problems come back.”

But if the government can take advantage of this security and demonstrate leadership and get jobs to the people, “then when the troops go away, the society can continue to function and progress. That’s what we’re looking to do,” he said.

He reminded the reporters that the Baghdad security plan is Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s plan. “He has so far lived up to his promises,” Pace said.

The Iraqi government has brought three additional Iraqi brigades to Baghdad. Maliki appointed the Iraqi commanders, and they are performing their jobs. Finally, the prime minister has maintained a hands-off policy to military operations, and he has kept the political pressures off the battlefield commanders, Pace said.

“That leadership is taking place and, as a result of that, we have seen a lessening of sectarian violence Sunni on Shiia or Shiia on Sunni,” the general said. “That’s the good news. The bad news is there has been an increased number of bombings by al Qaeda to basically try to reignite the sectarian conflict.”

He said al Qaeda terrorists are trying to duplicate the Iraqi reaction following the Golden Mosque bombing in Samarra in February 2006. That was an attempt by al Qaeda to incite sectarian violence, “and it worked,” Pace said. “Now, the Iraqi government is trying to lead the way they should to maintain calm in the city. They are getting that calm between Sunni and Shiia.”

Continued success would mean that any militia wanting to incite violence “would be much less welcome by citizens who have enjoyed some peace, have begun to see leadership by their own government, have begun to see jobs.”

The chairman also said that setting a firm date for withdrawal from Iraq would be “counterproductive from a military standpoint.”

“It is better for us not to be over precise about when a particular project will be done and focus on the security that allows the Iraqis to have their government function the way it can and should.”

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