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Pace Vows U.S. Military Ready for Challenges of 2006

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 1, 2006 – The U.S. armed forces are prepared to handle whatever challenges arise in 2006, the nation's top general vowed today in an interview from Iraq. He also thanked troops and their families for sacrifices in the global war on terrorism.

"We'll assess the situation and do the best we can with what we have at hand and be successful the way our nation needs us to be." Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on ABC's "This Week" program.

Pace said the U.S. goal is to ensure Iraqi armed forces and police are capable of defending their own land. "And they're getting much more capable of doing that," he said.

He warned that many insurgents are not going to quit the battlefield. "They're going to be either killed or captured by coalition forces or by Iraqi armed forces," Pace said.

However, he added, a large number of potential insurgents might change their minds when they see the Iraqi government taking shape after recent successful elections. "As they see their own armed forces taking over responsibility in their country, they will see that being a part of the future of Iraq is going to be much better than becoming part of the insurgency," Pace said.

In an effort to get the right people back into the Iraqi armed forces, the Iraqi government is reaching out to Sunni former military officers, in the ranks of major and below, and enlisted folks who want to rejoin the armed forces of their country, Pace noted.

The Iraqi military and police forces must be inclusive if the country's fledgling democracy is going to be successful. Specifically, Pace said, they need to include more Sunnis. "There's room for improvement," he said, "and I think the Iraq government understands that and is working toward that goal."

In regards to local militias, the general said they need to become a part of the standing army or police force, or they need to disband. "We've got to be careful. They have loyalties not necessarily for the central government," Pace said. "That's why it's so important that you have a central government with an army and police better trained and equipped by that central government and are loyal to it."

With encouragement from governments around the world, the Iraqi people will find a way to use the democracy that's in their hands for the betterment of their own people, Pace said.

"I think democracy is what it is everywhere in the world," he said. "It's not a clean, precise process, but one that is the best hope for all of us. It's a way to be representative of the needs of all the people."

Pace also vowed that politics will not affect military commanders' decisions in determining troop levels in Iraq.

"I don't expect to get any political pressure because I expect to be who I am -- the military advisor to the president, secretary of defense and the National Security Council," Pace said. "I expect of myself to give that best military advice.

"I met with most of the senior commanders over here last night at a dinner, and we all clearly understand our responsibility to assess our needs to tell our civilian leaders what those needs are," he added.

Vowing to "look everybody in the eye and tell the truth," Pace said, "That's exactly what you should expect of us and what we should expect from ourselves."

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Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

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