Pace Discusses Positive, Negative News From Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 5, 2006 There is both good news and bad news coming out of Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.
The 2005 Iraqi elections were hopeful signs for the nation, Marine Gen. Peter Pace said at a meeting of the World Affairs Council at the Four Seasons Hotel here. Good news stories from the country include Iraq's election of a Transitional National Assembly in January 2005, the ratification in an October 2005 referendum of a constitution written by that body, and December national elections for representatives to the permanent parliament.
He said the training of the Iraqi military also is a plus. A year ago, the Iraqi army had only a handful of battalions. "Now, there are almost 130," Pace said. Similarly, a year ago there were no Iraqi brigades or divisions; now the Iraqi army boasts more than 30 brigades and "eight, going to 10" divisions, he said.
In November 2005, more Iraqi units than coalition forces participated in company-sized operations, and that trend is continuing, Pace said. "Today, 83 percent of all operations are led solely by Iraqis or Iraqis and coalition forces, with the other 17 percent being coalition-only (operations)," he said.
And Iraqi forces are becoming more capable, Pace said. Before the first election, on Jan. 30, 2005, some Iraqi police units dissolved under pressure and ran from the battlefield. "Once the election of January 2005 took place, we have not had an Iraqi unit walk off the battlefield," he said. "I believe that is because they now have a central entity they can be loyal to."
But, Pace acknowledged, there are problems in Iraq. "Obviously, the bombs are still going off," he said. "We have not yet turned the corner in convincing the Iraqi people that their future is with their new government. Once the Iraqi people believe that, then the relatively small number of people who are swimming inside that society and making the bombs will dry up or be cast out."
Setting up a government is a priority, the general said. "The elections were in December. It is now April. Iraqi elected leaders were elected to do a job -- that is to form a government. They need to get about doing what the citizens elected them to do," he said.
Iraq needs a unity government that the armed forces, the police and the people can support "and believe will provide for them the better life ahead -- the sooner the better," Pace said.