Ambassador Khalilzad: U.S. Goals For Iraq Remain Unchanged
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2006 The road has been rough in Iraq's journey toward becoming a responsible member of the world community, but the country will reach its destination, the senior U.S. diplomat to Iraq said today.
Although Iraq is now experiencing a spasm of sectarian violence, “the ultimate goals that we have for Iraq have not changed,” U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters in Baghdad.
U.S. officials envision a “multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democratic Iraq that will be unique in this part of the world, where traditionally the dominant ethnic or sectarian group has sought to suppress others,” Khalilzad explained.
Iraq’s minority Sunni Arabs had power over much larger numbers of Kurds and Shiites during Saddam Hussein’s regime. Today, senior Iraqi officials are striving to stop Sunnis and Shiites from killing each other and to gather them, along with the Kurds, under the nation’s new inclusive political umbrella.
That endeavor has experienced some problems, as a recent spate of sectarian violence has gripped much of Baghdad and some other parts of Iraq, Khalilzad acknowledged.
“We are going through a difficult transition to get there from here,” the diplomat observed.
However, the United States and the Iraqi government have agreed to plans for stemming sectarian violence. This involves creating a national compact and a constitutional amendment to guarantee rights for Iraqis of every ethnic stripe and a concerted effort to stop factions from killing each other and to bring them to the bargaining table, Khalilzad said.
Iraqi government leaders also have drawn up plans to deal will illegal militias, to share the country’s oil profits among the different ethnic groups, and to improve the capabilities of the country’s military and police forces, he added.
If Iraq’s leaders deliver on their commitments, then the national compact and constitutional amendment should be in place “in the course of the next 12 months,” the U.S. ambassador predicted.
Violence in Iraq should subside as a result of progress on the national compact and reconciliation of religious sects, Khalilzad said.
However, “there are enemies, both internal and external” that are dedicated to the destabilization of the new Iraqi government, Khalilzad noted. These sinister forces adapt and adjust to U.S., coalition and Iraqi efforts to stamp them out, he said.
Yet, Khalilzad said he remains optimistic, and said that Iraq “will make significant progress in the coming 12 months.”
Iraq’s security forces now number more than 300,000. Officials believe they will be capable of maintaining domestic order “and deny Iraq as a safe haven for terror,” Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said.
“We are now about 75 percent of the way through a three-step process in building those forces,” Casey said. “And, it’s going to take another 12 to 18 months or so ‘til I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security.”
Even then, U.S. forces may be required to provide some support, Casey added. However, any such support, “will be directly asked for by the Iraqis,” he said.