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Iraqis at Crossroads But Seem to Be Choosing Unity, Pace Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BALTIMORE, March 14, 2006 – Iraq is at a crossroads, and the Iraqi people have critical decisions to make in the near future, the top U.S. general said here yesterday.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the Baltimore Council of Foreign Affairs March 13. Pace took numerous questions from the audience on issues ranging from port security to current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

During a presentation before the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Iraqi people are facing real difficulties. "Everything is in place if they want to have a civil war," he said. "Everything is also in place if they want to have a unified future. What we have seen so far since the bombing of the Golden Dome is that the Iraqi people -- Kurds, Shiia, Sunni, their elected leaders and their religious leaders -- have said, 'We don't want to go down the civil war road.'"

Terrorists trying to foment civil war destroyed the Golden Mosque, a significant shrine for Shiite Muslims, in Samarra on Feb. 22. Violence broke out across the country, and Iraqi officials imposed a curfew on many areas.

Pace said most of the people in authority in Iraq are calling for calm. The Iraqi military has been loyal to the central government and provided security in the streets following the bombing, he said. The Iraqi police have taken their lead from the military and worked to impose calm in the country.

Training police and the armed forces in Iraq is going very well, Pace said, but he acknowledged the mission is not complete. "We should not put a great big smiley face on this, because there is still a lot to do," he said.

Insurgents cannot defeat coalition military forces, "nor can the Iraqi people get to their future through force of arms," Pace said.

"We need the military and the police, the U.S. and the coalition and, most importantly, the Iraqis to provide stability so the elected government in Iraq can begin to provide the kinds of services that allow the Iraqi people to believe that their future underneath an elected government is going to be better than a future underneath some kind of terrorist leadership," he said.

The general also said the war on terror will not end with a surrender ceremony, such as that aboard the USS Missouri at the end of World War II. Rather, he said, "you will see over time a diminishment in the terrorist activities."

"The best analogy I could give you is: In any city there is crime, but the police and government keep that crime below a level at which the vast majority of people can carry out their daily lives and live the way they want to," Pace explained. "That's really the end state that you will see for terrorism."

Terrorism will still exist, but nations will work within their borders to stop the root causes that push people to extremism, Pace said. Nations also will act internationally to stop funding for the groups, to deny them safe havens, and to cooperate on intelligence work.

The war on terror will be a long war, Pace said. "If you look at any terrorist organization, it takes 20 or 30 years to overcome their ideology," he said. "That does not mean 20 or 30 years of 130,000 troops in Iraq; (reductions in that number) can come in a relatively short period of time. It does mean 20 or 30 years of your military, your police and other countries' militaries and police being on guard and being able to act quickly against cells around the world that would do us harm."

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Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

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