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Despite Perception, War in Iraq Going Well, Leaders Say

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2005 – Amid recent reports of a dip in public opinion about the war in Iraq, top military leaders said that although difficult times are ahead, progress is being made in Iraq.

After testifying in front of the House Armed Services Committee June 23, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command; and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, spoke to reporters about the perceived lack of confidence in the war.

Americans shouldn't look only to casualty reports to measure success or failure in the war, Abizaid said, but should consider what the perception is of the people directly involved in the conflict.

"The troops in the field are doing well," he said. "The Afghan security forces are doing well, and the Iraqi security forces are doing well. We want to make sure that people understand that."

Public opinion about the war has been shaped in large part, by the media, Rumsfeld said.

"They (American people) are constantly hearing negative pieces as opposed to a balanced approach as to what's actually happening there," he said. "There's some very tough fighting going on. People are being killed, let there be no doubt. ... But, as that happens, there are also a number of important things happening."

Iraqi security forces are doing a good job and growing larger every day, Rumsfeld said, and the country's political and economical systems are moving forward. Critics argue that the political process is taking too long, but they need to realize the magnitude of what is happening in Iraq, he said.

"These people are doing something that is very tough to do," he said. "They're going to try to put their confidence in a piece of paper -- a constitution -- to protect them against each other. They've never done that."

The leaders also spoke about expectations for Syria as Iraq develops its new political system.

"I would say, from my perspective, that Syria's not helping, they're hurting," Casey said. "They need to change what they're doing. ... They need to reduce the flow of foreign fighters that are coming through Damascus, working their way through Syria and into Iraq. They can stop it."

Rumsfeld added that Syria needs to help Iraq now, to promote better relations between the neighboring countries in the future.

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Donald H. Rumsfeld
Gen. John Abizaid, USA
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., USA

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