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Abizaid Labels Priorities in Iraq Efforts

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2003 – Focusing on what he calls "The Five I's" is the best approach to take in Iraq, the commander of U.S. Central Command said here Sept. 4.

Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, along with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz and Virginia Sen. John Warner, met with reporters after a session with the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Abizaid said he's trying to concentrate on five priorities, all of which have key words starting with the letter I:

  • internationalization; "Iraqi-ization";
  • intelligence (focusing on it);
  • infrastructure (fixing it quickly); and
  • information (telling the story of what the military force is doing in Iraq).

"I think one of the most important things we (need to) do is expand the coalition, internationalize the force," Abizaid said. "It's important that we put a face on this mission as one that the entire international community is interested in participating in."

The general said many ways exist to further internationalize the mission in Iraq by having an American officer in charge of a unified U.N. command. The commander would have an international staff, and the United Nations would add contingents from more countries to the force. "We've done it in many places Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere," he said.

In the area of giving the Iraqis more responsibility, security is another of the general's priorities. He cited police, civil defense and the development of an army and other institutions as areas of emphasis.

Wolfowitz noted the Iraqi people themselves are important members of the coalition, with more than 50,000 Iraqis working now in security jobs. "It's their country. They're ready to fight for it, and we want to help them do that," the deputy defense secretary said.

He pointed out that the Najaf town council took responsibility for calming the situation after a car bomb at a Shiite shrine killed and injured scores of Iraqis Aug. 29, and asked the FBI to help with the investigation.

"The more Iraqis feel that they are in charge of their own country, the more rapidly we'll get away from this idea that we're there as an occupation force," Wolfowitz said. "We came as liberators. That's our mission. I think most Iraqis understand that." A resolution the United States is trying to pass through the U.N. Security Council would lead to Iraqis regaining sovereignty in their country, he added.

Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that although terrorism continues in Iraq, his constituents have told him they believe everything possible is being done to protect forces stationed there.

"We're not confronting military units. We're confronting terrorists, and those terrorists are striking out not only against uniformed personnel of the coalition, but (also) against their own people," Warner said. He added that terrorists from other countries have infiltrated into Iraq.

Abizaid said focusing intelligence is crucial "to ensure that we get after the terrorist threat."

Wolfowitz summed up the commitment to infrastructure repair by relating his impressions after a first-hand look. "I went to Iraq in July to try to get a sense of where the most urgent needs were," he said. "I came home saying, 'Iraqi security forces and electricity.'"

On the information front, Abizaid said that what he sometimes sees when he's in the United States differs with what he sees on the ground in Iraq. "I've been home for about a week and a half, and I look around and I sometimes say, 'I guess I need to go back to Iraq to find somebody to surrender to,'" the general said. "And then I go and I talk to our troops in downtown Baghdad and anywhere, and they are so confident and so positive that it takes me (only) about 30 minutes to understand we've got this under control."

Wolfowitz said the effort in Iraq will be costly, but worthwhile. He expressed optimism about the eventual outcome and praised the military people stationed in Iraq.

"What we're talking about is something that's going to contribute substantially to making our country safer, preventing the kinds of giant tragedies that the terrorists would like to perpetrate. So yes, it's going to be expensive, but the gains to our country are huge," he said.

"It's a battle we're winning," Wolfowitz continued. "And we're winning it thanks to incredibly committed and professional and truly brave and heroic men and women who are serving in the uniform of the United States out there today."

Abizaid echoed the deputy secretary's comments, and added a reminder of the goal: "It won't be easy it'll be tough. There will be some treasure that has to be expended and, unfortunately, there will be blood. But we can do this. We can win it, and we can win it with Iraqis."

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