Complex Situation in Iraq Requires Patience, Commander Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2007 The environment in Iraq is extremely complex, and the American people are going to have to be patient, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq said in a news conference today.
Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said the threats to stability differ from province to province, and there is no silver-bullet solution to the situation. He said sectarian strife, Sunni and Shiia extremists, al Qaeda, crime and subversive influences from around the region are the main threats in the country.
Odierno briefed Pentagon reporters via a two-way link from his headquarters in Camp Liberty, Iraq.
“Al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents continue to try to destabilize and delegitimize the government of Iraq,” Odierno said. He said the groups will continue to launch “catastrophic events” such as car bombs and suicide bombers to kill hundreds of innocent civilians. The groups also continue attacks on coalition and Iraqi security forces to create the impression of instability.
Shiia extremists are working against the Iraqi government to try to gain power. “They are involved in sectarian violence, and in some cases outright murder of civilians,” Odierno said.
Both groups are trying to take advantage of the infant government. He reminded reporters that the Iraqi government is just 10 months old and is working to put its institutions in order while fighting a war.
The stepped-up security operation under way in Baghdad reflects the importance of securing the Iraqi capital to the overall effort in the country, Odierno told reporters. “Baghdad is key to stability in Iraq,” he said.
He said Operation Fard al-Qanun – Enforcing the Law –already is paying off. U.S. troops are arriving in the city, and two brigades of Iraqi troops have already arrived. With four more battalions of Iraqi forces due in Baghdad in the next four weeks, the government will have lived up to its pledge, he said.
The idea behind the operation is to give the government enough breathing room to reach out and prove to the people of Iraq that the government “is able to protect all its citizens regardless of sect or ethnicity,” Odierno said.
The Iraqi commander in Baghdad, Army Lt. Gen. Abboud Gambar, has set up his headquarters and is actively directing his army and police forces.
Odierno said he has visited the joint security stations in Rusafa and Dura, and that the Iraqi army, police and U.S. forces are working side by side and going out on patrols together. Preventing car bombers from plying their trade is a big part of the effort, he said.
“We are helping the Iraqis introduce a number of measures to prevent vehicle-borne IEDs from entering crowded public areas,” he said. “All of this is serving to help protect the Iraqi people.”
Odierno said that while there is some initial progress, the enemies are adaptable and will continue their attacks.
“We know there will be some tough days ahead,” he said. “The success of this mission will come over months, not weeks or days.”