Following are highlights of an update on the Iraqi elections from Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the commanding general of Multi-National Force-Iraq. The general made his comments via satellite during a town hall meeting this afternoon at the Pentagon hosted by Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Links: Multi-National Force-Iraq release on attack at Karmah polling site; DoD election web page; Multi-National Force-Iraq web site ; DoD transcripts page (transcript will be posted when it becomes available)
- The Iraqi people have had a great day today. It’s their third national poll this year (Jan. 30 elections for the Transitional National Assembly; Oct. 15 national referendum on the constitution; Dec. 15 elections for a permanent assembly).
- Voter turnout was high; we expect it to be at or above the October level. Turnout in Anbar province, in western Iraq, is expected to have increased fairly substantially over October.
- There was low violence across Iraq; we expect it to be at or below the October level.
- The Iraqi Security Forces performed wonderfully to maintain security at the polling sites.
- The high sentiment was set this morning when Iraqis swiftly repaired damage from an improvised explosive device attack at a polling site in Karmah, and the site was open at seven.
- Three years ago Saddam Hussein was still tyrannizing the Iraqi people. The accomplishments of the Iraqis and the Coalition since then have been unprecedented, even in the face of a ruthless and resilient insurgency. They include:
- The transition to sovereignty;
- Elections for a transitional government;
- A peaceful transition from the interim to the transitional government;
- The drafting and approving of the constitution;
- The building of the Iraqi Security Forces to more than 200,000; and
- The elections for a permanent assembly today.
- There is work ahead for 2006. The new four-year government must be selected, make the transition, and take its place. There are still political and economic development challenges. There will be a debate on amending the constitution, and a debate on federalism; both could be fairly divisive.
- Despite the great elections today, the insurgency will not just go away. But they will gradually reduce as the root causes of the insurgency are addressed over time.
- Our Coalition partners, and the men and women in uniform and their civilian support help make the successes in Iraq possible.