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U.S.-Coalition Goal Remains for Iraqis to Run Country, Feith Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2003 – The U.S. and coalition goal in Iraq is "to give the Iraqi people the opportunity to create a new and thriving Iraq" for themselves, a senior Defense Department official said here Nov. 24.

"Our strategy aims to put the Iraqis in a position to run their own lives, manage their own government and provide for their own security and to leave as soon as we have done so," Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith told a Heritage Foundation audience.

Feith said "substantial progress" has been made in assisting Iraqis to establish a new nation free of tyranny since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Iraq's national governing council, he asserted, "is the most representative government Iraq has ever had -- and it's gaining acceptance at home and abroad."

The council's interim ministers are "setting budgets and making policy," Feith noted, while 250 local governing councils throughout Iraq are "countering Iraq's history of extreme centralization."

The governing council and coalition officials recently announced "a process and timetable for creating a transitional government, electing the members of a Constitutional Convention, drafting and ratifying a new constitution and holding elections under it to elect a permanent government for Iraq," Feith said.

While security is a concern in some areas of Iraq, Feith acknowledged, he noted that Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, has the situation under control. The general, Feith said, has "devised an aggressive strategy" to defeat the insurgents.

That strategy, Feith noted, is to apply relentless pressure "to capture or kill enemy leaders and fighters, to disrupt and defeat their operations, to cut off their sources of supply and support, and to extract and exploit intelligence."

U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq are adapting to the enemy's tactics, Feith said, employing technology "to counter the enemy's improvised bombs, mortars and other weapons."

Very few Iraqis want to see the return of Baathist tyranny or the establishment of a government of extremist jihadists, Feith maintained. Yet, the insurgents are "well-financed, well-armed and motivated," he acknowledged, noting that "no one should underestimate the difficulty of our mission." But he also predicted ultimate victory in Iraq. "No one should doubt that the U.S.-led coalition will succeed," he said.

It's paramount that more Iraqis be trained and equipped to provide security for their own country, Feith said, noting that the new Iraqi Civil Defense Corps "will perform combined operations with U.S. and coalition forces." And the Iraqi police force, he added, is being retrained and revamped for its role in the new Iraq.

Some new Iraqi security forces, Feith said, can take over fixed-site security missions, thereby freeing U.S. troops "to provide a quick reaction force that can deal with situations that go beyond the Iraqi forces' abilities." And as more Iraqis operate within the new security forces, "they will improve the coalition's intelligence, which is the key to dealing with former regime loyalists and with terrorists," he maintained.

Iraq, he said, "could serve as a model to the Arab and Muslim worlds of modernization, moderation, democracy and economic well-being." And a free and prosperous Iraq, he added, "could provide tens of millions of people with an alternative way to think about the future: Life doesn't have to be dominated by fanaticism and tyranny."

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