Defense Leaders Note Progress Made in Iraq
By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 11, 2005 Three senior U.S. defense leaders expressed optimism today about the situation in Iraq following the nation's first free elections and also about the progress made by Iraqi security forces.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, along with Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command, and Army Gen. George Casey, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, spoke to reporters during a press conference in Baghdad.
"There's no question that progress has been made, and I feel good about that progress," Rumsfeld said. "I sense that the coalition effort is well-organized, focused and advancing."
As the Iraqi government takes shape and Iraqi economic and political systems begin to rebuild themselves, Rumsfeld said he expects the country to also become safer and more stable.
"The political, the economic and the security situations have to move forward together," Rumsfeld said. "We have hopes that we'll see in Iraq, over time, that the political situation will improve the security situation. Certainly the security situation in Afghanistan has improved. It is reasonable to suspect that will happen here."
There has already been a noticeable drop in the level of violence, according to Casey, who noted the number of attacks in the past 11 days, since the Jan. 30 elections, have dropped considerably from the peaks reached in the months leading up to the elections. This was in great part due, according to Casey, to a great improvement in the performance of Iraqi troops.
"We are extremely pleased with the success of the Iraqi security forces," Casey said. "It's absolutely amazing."
Casey also said that Iraqi security forces' performance during the election has boosted their morale.
"Since the success of the elections, and since the success of the Iraqi security forces during the elections, there is a much greater sense of pride in the Iraqi security forces across the country," Casey said. "There is also a much greater level of confidence of the Iraqi people in those security forces."
Casey added that coalition forces have begun the process of embedding military advisers in Iraqi units. These personnel will be part of Iraqi units, living and working side by side with Iraqi troops, advising them on military issues. The goal, according to Casey, is to enable the Iraqi troops to effectively combat the insurgency themselves.
"What we want to do is work this year to begin the transition of the counterinsurgency effort to Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government," Casey said. "We are working with them, and will over the next weeks or months here, to figure out the key elements of that transition."
Looking at the entire theater of operations, Abizaid said he expects a great movement forward over the next year.
"I think it's safe to say that 2005 is going to be a very important year of transition for the entire theater," he said. "We have an awful lot of opportunity to reshape the force, to help the nations in the regions to help themselves."
Many nations in the area have already made great strides in that direction, according to Abizaid. "We're very optimistic about the progress that both the Afghan and Iraqi forces have made," he said. "We're also very optimistic about the successes the Saudi, Kuwaiti and Pakistani forces have had."