Three Years into OIF, Former Chairman Cites Successes, Challenges
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 17, 2006 Three years after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on morning talk shows today he's impressed by significant progress that's been made on the political, economic and security fronts.
"If you look at the progress that has been made in three years -- from major combat to a parliament sitting and a constitution that's been approved by ... over 10 million people who risked their lives to go to the polls -- there has been some significant progress," retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said today on CNN.
Myers cited strategic milestones during the past year, emphasizing Iraq's steps toward building a democracy. "We're making some progress, and we are helping Iraqis define their own future in a way that's going to be appropriate for the community of nations," he said on Fox News Channel.
Yesterday's seating of the Iraqi parliament was a big milestone for Iraq that's key to its future, Myers said. But building a new democracy in Iraq won't be quick or easy, Myers acknowledged. He pointed to the difficulties the United States had in doing so, and the 13 years between when it declared independence and elected George Washington president.
"This is going to be a series of singles and doubles. There are not going to be many home runs in trying to build a democracy in Iraq," Myers told Fox News. "And Iraqis are struggling with this. They are struggling with putting the political process in place to replace the one of terror and fear that reined for three decades."
On the security front, Myers said Iraq's forces are standing up as a unified force, even in the face of sectarian violence. He called recent violence "their biggest test" since coalition forces started training them.
"One of the things we can take heart in is how the Iraqi forces ... have responded to this," Myers said. "And they have responded, for the most part, very well and very strongly. The forces that are supposed to protect the population are working very well."
Similarly, Iraqi forces' participation in Operation Swarmer, a large-scale air assault mission launched yesterday against terrorists outside Samarra, demonstrates capabilities they've built, he said.
"One of the things ... I take away watching this is that Iraqi troops are now at the point in their training where they can participate in what we consider in the U.S. forces a fairly sophisticated operation, and that is air assault" Myers said.
This reaffirms an almost universal view that Iraqis are making solid progress, he said. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has noted that these troops "are performing well under very difficult circumstances," Myers said.
Myers called the continued insurgent activity in Iraq an example of a minority of extremists using intimidation against a population that wants to live in peace. "The majority of people in Iraq want a new life," he said. "They want the same thing for their children and their grandchildren that we want."