Gates: Baghdad Security Plan Encouraging So Far
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 13, 2007 The Baghdad security plan has only been under way for a short time, but the Iraqis are meeting their commitments and early signs are pointing toward success, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.
The most important measure of success in the new security plan is whether the Iraqis are meeting their commitments, such as appointing commanders for Baghdad, providing extra troops, and removing political restrictions from troops in the area, Gates said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel.
“We can measure those things, and those are the areas where the Iraqis have pretty well fulfilled the commitments that they have made,” Gates said.
The Iraqis have appointed a commander and two sub-commanders for Baghdad, and while the initial Iraqi battalions were showing up light on personnel, they are now consistently more than 90 percent manned, Gates said. The long-term success of the plan, such as the rebuilding of Iraqi society, remains to be seen, he said.
Improvised explosive devices and the more lethal explosively formed penetrators are still a major problem in Iraq, Gates noted. He asserted that materials for these bombs are coming out of Iran, although it is not clear if the Iranian government knows about these activities.
Roadside bombs remain the primary form of attack on coalition and Iraqi troops, Gates said. Many of the foreign fighters who come into Iraq are suicide bombers who target Iraqi civilians, he said.
“One of the messages that perhaps we haven’t adequately gotten out is that these foreign fighters are coming into Iraq principally to kill Iraqis, not to kill coalition forces,” he said. “There are clearly some that do, but by and large, they’re killing Iraqis.”
While the conflict in Iraq is the Defense Department’s highest priority, the military remains committed to success in Afghanistan and is prepared to deal with any potential future conflicts, Gates said. Several NATO countries have stepped up their commitments to Afghanistan in the past few weeks, he noted, and the U.S. is working to establish a new combatant command for Africa that will establish important relationships in the fight against terrorism.
The United States has more than two million people in the armed forces, of which 200,000 are deployed to the Middle East, and while DoD faces some equipment shortages, it remains ready to defend against potential adversaries, Gates said.
“No one should … have any misconception that the United States is not fully prepared to take on any adversary anywhere,” he said.