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Iraqis Can Draw Hope From Tragedy, Official Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2006 – The violence in Iraq over the past week has been tragic and has caused tension throughout the country, but ultimately it will inspire Iraqis to unite and form a strong government to defeat the terrorists, a top U.S. official said yesterday.

"The interesting point here is what conclusions the communities draw from this difficult week," national security adviser Stephen Hadley said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "They've stared into the abyss a bit, and I think they've all concluded that further violence, further tension between the communities, is not in their interest."

Violence erupted in Iraq after the Feb. 22 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra. More than 200 people have been killed in the sectarian clashes. Many national, community and religious leaders have issued statements condemning the violence and blaming terrorists for attempting to incite civil war, Hadley said.

"What was interesting is all the statements from all the leaders was that this tactic would not succeed, that the communities were going to stay together and work together and try and avoid violence and build a unity government," he said.

This political unity is critical to defeat the terrorists, Hadley said. The country must come together and commit to building a future, he said, adding he hopes the sectarian violence would motivate leaders to do so.

"That is the hope out of this tragedy," he said.

The U.S. continues to focus on training Iraqi security forces to deal with situations like this and any others that may arise, Hadley said. Iraqi units continue to take the lead in operations, he said, and interest in military service is rising among Iraqis.

The best measure of progress in training Iraqi security forces is how many units can work alongside U.S. forces and take the lead in operations, Hadley said. Also important is how many Iraqi units are taking responsibility for battlespace, he said.

"Those are the things our military looks at in gauging the progress, and those numbers are consistently moving up," he said.

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