U.S. General Cites Iraq Progress, Salutes Servicemembers
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2006 As progress continues in Iraq, U.S. forces are "going to put a great deal of focus on the police issue," a senior U.S. general in Iraq told reporters here today.
"The Iraqi army has made enormous progress in 2005," Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, commanding general of Multinational Corps Iraq and the 18th Airborne Corps, said from Baghdad during a satellite news conference at the Pentagon.
Iraqi police forces will get more training and mentoring from U.S. experts this year, Vines said, noting he's very optimistic for Iraq's future in light of the successful Dec. 15 national elections.
"A 70-percent turnout for a national election is something we would be very, very happy about in the United States," Vines said. "And that's what we experienced (in Iraq) less than a month ago."
Iraqi soldiers, border guards and police "are performing bravely throughout Iraq," Vines said. The Iraqi border police have established their presence, he said, to help prevent terrorists from coming into Iraq from Syria.
"The capabilities of the (Iraqi) security forces are enormously increased," Vines said, compared to a year ago. And Sunnis participated in the Dec. 15 election in large numbers, Vines said, after they'd boycotted the previous voting held in January 2005.
"That's a huge turnaround," Vines said.
"Their commitment to have their voice heard peacefully, democratically, is extraordinarily heartening," he noted.
Vines also saluted U.S. servicemembers serving in Iraq and elsewhere in the world. He pointed out that his troops in Iraq and millions of other Americans will be watching pro football playoff games this weekend that will showcase the feats of gifted athletes.
"But the real heroes are the young men and women, America's sons and daughters, around the world who are confronting terrorism today, even as we speak," Vines said. "They've been brilliant in carrying out our national policies."
U.S. servicemembers deployed in harm's way in places like Iraq and Afghanistan "face hardship, danger, deprivation and loneliness every day," Vines said. He called them the new "Greatest Generation.'
"And if Americans could see them as I do on a daily basis, they would be in awe of them, as I am," Vines said, "and they'd say a prayer of thanks for their service and also a prayer for their safety."
Vines will depart Iraq soon after a year's tour. He'll be replaced by Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, who'd served in Iraq in 2004-05 as commander of the 1st Cavalry Division.