Supporting Iraqi Government Key to Ending Violence, General Says
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 19, 2006 Supporting Iraqi government ministries is the key to developing a peaceful, democratic Iraq, a top U.S. general serving there said today.
In particular, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said he believes improving Iraq's economy is "the lynchpin of a peaceful Iraq."
"Through the (Iraqi security forces), we can address the symptoms -- violence," Chiarelli said in a satellite briefing to Pentagon reporters. "But by building up Iraqi ministerial capacity to provide basic services and create hope and economic opportunity, we can get at the causes. A prosperous Iraq will be a peaceful Iraq. The link between this is inextricable."
Economic opportunity is particularly important to take away support for terrorist groups, he said. "By creating jobs and opportunity, the Iraqi government would take away a major source of support for violent movements -- aimless, underemployed, young men who would otherwise rather be gainfully employed and supporting their families, but are laying (improvised explosive devices), shooting (rocket-propelled grenades) and fighting Iraqi security forces and the coalition because they lack alternatives," Chiarelli said.
The general said he believes Iraqis want alternatives. "Disillusionment, poverty and hopelessness are the breeding grounds for violence," he said. "While there may be a small core of zealots who will never give up their violent ways, basic services and economic opportunity will isolate these extremist few from the majority of the population, who merely seek a better life for themselves and their families."
Chiarelli also updated reporters on progress being made by Iraqi security forces. "The Iraqi security forces continue to improve and perform their jobs bravely and admirably," he said.
He pointed to a recent operation in Muqtadiyah, in which Iraqi security forces "handily" beat back an attack, as an example of these forces' competence and professionalism.
"It was my honor recently to visit some of the Iraqi army soldiers involved in this action alongside two senior Iraqi generals as they bestowed honors and awards on these soldiers for their bravery," Chiarelli said.
Officials expect 75 percent of brigades in the 10-division Iraqi army to be "in the lead" in their sectors by the end of this summer.
He credited the partnership between the U.S. military and Iraqi units with fostering this success.
"The progress of the (Iraqi security forces) is due to the talents, commitment and patriotism of the Iraqis themselves, but I believe it is also due to true partnership we have created with them," Chiarelli said. "Our vetting (and) training teams live, work, eat, sleep and fight alongside their Iraqi colleagues day in and day out, building personal and professional relationships that will last a lifetime, and this approach has worked."