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New U.S. Ambassador Ready to Help Iraq Reach Goals

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2005 – Iraq is poised at a crossroads, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq told journalists at the Foreign Press Center here today.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who was sworn in as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq on June 21st after having served 16 months as ambassador and special presidential envoy to Afghanistan, is ready to help Iraq reach its goal of democracy.

"I'm ready to go to Baghdad," Khalilzad said. "I am looking forward in the coming days to continue to help the Iraqi people and their leaders to advance towards their goal of completing Iraq's democratic transition and building a successful Iraq."

To accomplish this task, he put forth his seven-pronged plan on what he called "mutually reinforcing fronts."

The first is bringing together the Iraqi people. "I will work with Iraqi leaders to help them develop a common and unifying vision, a national compact enshrined in the constitution, and unite the people against the terrorists and hard- line Baathists," Khalilzad said.

To that end, his second prong is to break the insurgency's back. "A key aspect of this work will be to increase the number and enhance the capabilities of Iraqi forces and security institutions," the ambassador said. "This also requires that we help build security institutions in Iraq in which all Iraqis can have confidence."

He said that he would personally review all of the training programs and ensure that they are based on a jointly developed U.S.-Iraqi plan.

Third on his list is help Iraq develop good relations with all its neighbors. "Iraq will emerge from the current situation as a rich country and a key regional player," he said. "It is in the interest of all Iraq's neighbors to help Iraqis now in order to build positive relationship(s) for the future."

This task also involves encouraging those who have offered reconstruction assistance to accelerate the delivery of that assistance. He also called on neighboring countries to work to ensure terrorists are not crossing the border into Iraq.

Accelerating the capacity-building efforts of Iraqi ministries and provincial governments and making sure that the reconstruction program is "under-promising and over-delivering" are the fourth and fifth prongs of Khalilzad's plan for Iraq. The plan also includes reassuring Iraqis that the U.S. does not seek the country's territory or wealth, but a successful Iraq that works for all Iraqis and serves as a positive role model for the region.

Lastly, Khalilzad said he would work with Iraqis to set conditions for a successful election under the new constitution. The election also would be held according to the timeline in the U.N. resolutions and would establish the foundation for a stable and moderate Iraq.

"The actions of Iraqis will determine ... Iraq's future," he said. "However, I will lead the U.S. effort to support efforts by the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people to set their country on a more positive trajectory."

Khalilzad argued that a military presence is needed at this time, as well as economic and diplomatic presences, to help Iraq move forward.

The presence of U.S. forces in Iraq "is not an end in itself," Khalilzad noted. "We do not seek permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. We want our forces to be able to assist Iraq to stand on its own feet, because free people would like to be able to protect themselves."

While a reduction of U.S. forces would be desirable, Khalilzad said, he stressed that the U.S. would not leave Iraq in the lurch and would ensure that Iraq could stand on its own.

The transition to self-sufficient country from "authoritarian Saddamism" is understandably difficult, he said.

"I know it's difficult because it's a new way of doing things. But I think Iraqi nationalism is strong," Khalilzad said. "(Iraq) is a proud country with a very long history, periods of darkness for sure, but periods of glory as well, and they want to be able to take care of their own destiny."

And the new ambassador is confident that can happen as has been occurring in Afghanistan.

"I think that Afghanistan is heading in the right direction. It's on the right trajectory," Khalilzad said. "It has made enormous progress in the course of the last three years, but it still has a long way to go to be a successful, stable country. I think to achieve that goal it requires sustained international engagement, support by the international community."

That's there, he said. And just as in Iraq, that needs to be sustained.

"I'm optimistic about Iraq's future," he said, "because Iraqis themselves are determined to seize a moment that's rich with possibilities for their nation. I will work as hard as I can to help Iraqis realize, as soon as possible, their aspirations for an Iraq that can stand on its own feet."

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