Commentary: A General’s View From Iraq
By Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Lanza
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Dec. 11, 2009 I'm frequently asked for my assessment of the situation in Iraq, especially after an incident like the heinous terrorist attacks that killed innocent civilians Dec. 8. Our deepest condolences go to the families and friends of the people killed or injured.
The attacks against the people of Iraq are clear indications of an enemy threatened by Iraq's progress in representative government and strengthening national unity. They stand in stark contrast to the compromise and consensus reached on the election law less than a week ago. Iraqis' choice to move forward to a bright future created an environment that increasingly limits the terrorists' effectiveness.
Simply put, the terrorists have failed; their attacks have not achieved their intended purposes. The government of Iraq and the resiliency of the people continue to strengthen.
Iraq has shown its forward progress in significant ways over the past several months. Representative government is strengthening, diplomatic efforts are expanding, and key legislation and discussions have laid the groundwork for foreign investment and economic growth. Today, the country's oil bids conference began in full transparency, allowing the people of Iraq insight into how their natural resources are handled.
In another clear sign of accountability in this nascent democracy, the Council of Representatives hosted the prime minister yesterday to discuss the recent attacks in Baghdad and other concerns. The session clearly indicates a functioning government with a representative legislative branch that is empowered and capable of exercising government oversight.
All of this is occurring within a security environment that is vastly improved over past years.
The improving security environment is the direct result of the government of Iraq and Iraqi security forces' focus on increasing capability and capacity. They successfully ensured a safe and secure Eid as well as several successful, important events over the past recent months, such as two mass Shiia pilgrimages in July and August. Millions of pilgrims participated with no major security incidents.
This year during Ramadan, which has in the past reflected a sharp increase in insurgent and extremist activity, saw fewer than 20 ethno-sectarian incidents, compared to 978 in 2006.
The government of Iraq has the lead to investigate Tuesday's attacks and continues to assess what happened and how. In two of the four attacks, there are early indications that the actions of the Iraqi security forces disrupted the terrorists from reaching what is believed to be their intended targets. These brave Iraqis are to be commended for their bravery and courage, giving their lives to protect their fellow countrymen.
As we've said in the past, challenges remain, and the security environment's importance is heightened as Iraq moves toward its national elections.
The ultimate retaliation against terrorists who attack Iraq's innocent men, women, and children and forward progress is to conduct credible and legitimate elections next year. Every day the Iraqis move forward - in elections, economy, diplomacy, investment - it is more difficult for violent extremists' ideology to take root.
Today, in part through a strong partnership with the United States, Iraq, is succeeding in using the improved security environment to establish strategic depth; building diplomatic, economic, and cultural relationships with its neighbors. This strategic depth, in turn, aids improvement of the country's security environment.
I am encouraged by the signs of progress in Iraq - the people, the government and their partners will not be deterred from the bright future taking shape.
I'm scheduled to meet with Pan-Arab journalists in Dubai early next week, and look forward to my interaction with them. I also look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with you as you work to connect the world to Iraq's significant story when I return. Thanks for all you do in support of all our men and women serving our country.
(Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Lanza serves as a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq.)