Focus in Iraq Belongs on Progress, Not Violence, Leaders Say
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 27, 2005 A perceived increase in violence in Iraq does not mean insurgents are winning or that progress is slowed, top military leaders said today in a news conference at the Pentagon.
Rather than focusing on the violence the terrorists have been causing, American people should focus on the things the terrorists have not been able to accomplish over the last year, said U.S. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq.
"They have not been able to expand their support base across Iraq, nor have they attracted a broad following," Casey said. "They have not prevented the growth of Iraqi security forces, even with almost daily attacks. They've lost their safe haven in Fallujah, and have not been able to reconstitute another one. They've also not sparked sectarian violence although they work at it every day. ... Perhaps most importantly, they have not stopped political and economical development in Iraq."
The perception that violence has been increasing in the last two months simply is wrong, Casey said. In the past two months, attacks actually have been lower than they were in August and November of last year, he said. The only difference is that terrorists now are using car bombs to kill Iraqi civilians, which Casey called "strictly a weapon of terror."
The insurgents have little to show for their efforts except a growing number of dead Iraqi civilians, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said, while Iraqi security forces are growing in size and capability and are earning the confidence and support of the people. But progress in Iraq does not mean violence will end right away, Rumsfeld said. He called for people to remember the struggles America went through in its quest for democracy, and to have patience with the process in Iraq.
"As in difficult conflicts of the past, lasting progress and achievements do not come from reacting to headlines or the mercurial opinion polls," he said. "Setbacks are inevitable, and important victories are seldom won without risk, sacrifice and patience."
Rumsfeld stressed that the Iraqis themselves must defeat the insurgency, and the role of the United States and the coalition is to create an environment where the Iraqis can accomplish that. Working toward the goal of a self-governing society, Iraqi leaders have responsibilities, Rumsfeld said. They must ensure there are no delays in the forming of the constitution, strengthen the Iraqi ministries to ensure needed services are provided, aggressively encourage neighboring countries to close their borders to terrorists, and encourage the Sunnis to get involved in the political process, he said.
Recent polls show the Iraqis are ready to get involved and change their country, Casey said. The people are confident in their government and security forces, are optimistic about the future, and intend to vote in large numbers in the upcoming elections, he said.
"They are serious about their future," the general said. "They are serious about building a government that respects the human rights of all Iraqis, and they are serious about defeating the terrorists and insurgents who are doing their utmost to derail their dream."
The number, type or intensity of attacks should not be looked at as the only factor in measuring success in Iraq, Casey said. There are a range of variables to be considered, such as the frequency of tips from local Iraqis, political development and inclusion, and economic development, he said. The most significant development Casey said he is looking for is political progress. This will be an important factor in considering the withdrawal of U.S. troops, he said.