White House Official: Iraqi Participation Key to Bush’s New Strategy
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2007 President Bush’s new strategy in Iraq will hinge on the Iraqi government and security forces stepping up and making decisions they have avoided, a senior White House official said today.
White House communications director Dan Bartlett, speaking on Fox News Channel this morning, said Iraqi leaders have pledged to make these decisions.
The new strategy, which the president will outline during a televised address tonight, will require a short-term increase in U.S. troops and support to the Iraqi government. “But ultimately, the new strategy President Bush is going to talk about tonight is going to give us the best chance for success,” Bartlett said. “It's going to give us the best chance to make sure that we wrest control of the security situation in Baghdad.”
This will “allow for the type of breathing space that the Iraqis need to get the type of political and economic reconciliation we all know that's necessary for that country to move forward,” Bartlett said.
More U.S. troops in the country will require two basic pre-conditions, he said. First, there must be more Iraqi troops on the ground. Second, there must be different, more aggressive rules of engagement for the Iraqi troops. Bartlett said President Bush “would not commit one additional troop to Baghdad if it weren't based upon a new strategy with new outcomes to be expected.”
In the past, the Iraqi government made promises to deploy additional troops to hot areas, but they didn’t materialize, Bartlett said. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki promised brigades of Iraqi forces for Operation Together Forward, launched in July, but only one Iraqi brigade actually deployed to Baghdad.
More important is what the Iraqi troops do when they do deploy. “The places where these troops can go and actually conduct operations have to be different,” Bartlett said. “We've found too often that certain parts of neighborhoods or communities in Baghdad were considered off-limits. That has to change, too.”
He said President Bush “made the conclusion that the Iraqis are going to step up; they are going to do things differently.”
Bush is setting clear benchmarks as the Iraqis move forward, Bartlett said. This will prove to the American people that the Iraqis are shouldering the burden of defusing sectarian violence in and around Baghdad, he said. “President Bush will make very clear tonight, as the American people expect him to do, that our commitment is not open-ended,” Bartlett said. “We do expect different results from the Iraqis.”
Bartlett said the war on terror cannot be won if the United States loses in Iraq. “Al Qaeda is fighting us in Iraq,” he said. “Iran has an interest in Iraq. … Every bad element in the Middle East is trying to defeat us in Iraq. The war on terror cannot be won if we fail in Iraq.”