U.S., Iraq Unified On Way-Forward Policy, Spokesmen Say
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2006 Today’s meeting between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan, was historic and demonstrated the two leaders’ accord on how to move forward in Iraq, a senior U.S. military officer told reporters at a Baghdad news conference today.
The two senior leaders had a very productive talk on how to best address the current security situation in Iraq, Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told Ali al-Dabbagh, a senior Iraqi government official who accompanied the general to the briefing.
Iraq has experienced escalating Sunni-vs.-Shiite sectarian violence since a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra was bombed by extremists Feb. 22.
Bush and Maliki agreed to speed up the transfer of authority and responsibility for security matters in Iraq to the country’s government and its military and police forces, Caldwell said.
Dabbagh echoed Caldwell’s comments, saying Maliki’s meeting with Bush “paints the horizons of relations between Iraq and the United States.”
The Iraqi official added that his government “will make an all-out review for the security situation in Iraq and take necessary steps in order to make Iraqi security forces enabled to hold (increased) responsibilities.”
In addition, Dabbagh said, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi recently met with Jordan’s King Abdullah, and discussed the mutual desirability of countries bordering Iraq to have a positive influence on the country’s internal affairs.
The current levels of violence in Iraq are unacceptable, Caldwell said later during a question-and-answer session with reporters.
He added that resolving Iraq’s violence involves both political and military components. “A military solution, alone, will not solve the problem of the violence,” Caldwell said to an Iraqi reporter. “We’re very encouraged as we listen to your prime minister and the political parties discuss and continue with their efforts at reconciliation, because that’s a key component to solving this violence.”
However, it’s also important that Iraq’s soldiers and police become more capable than they are today, as the transfer of security responsibilities moves forward, the general said. To help achieve this goal, more coalition assistance teams will be embedded with Iraqi army and police forces. “We’re going to either double or triple the size of these teams across the (Iraqi) army and the police forces,” Caldwell said. “And, their purpose is to focus on the professionalism and continuing training of the leaders and the soldiers and the policemen.”
Iraqi and coalition forces continue to work closely together to go after al Qaeda in Iraq, who have been striving to separate the Iraqi people along sectarian lines, Caldwell said. “They do this by sensational attacks causing large civilian casualties,” the general said. “They also do it through intimidation, murders and executions.”
Coalition and Iraqi security forces are working together in operations that target al Qaeda in Iraq, Caldwell said, noting some key members of the terrorist network were recently captured. “And those operations are still continuing today, and we are working very diligently at bringing down those organizations,” said he added.
Asked by another reporter if he thought the United States was going to soon withdraw its military forces from Iraq, Caldwell responded, “No, not at all.” The U.S. military, he said, is in Iraq at the request and invitation of the Iraqi government, and the United States is committed to assisting the Iraqi government until its security forces are capable of standing on their own.
Dabbagh dismisses reports that Iraq is experiencing a civil war. “There is political tension in Iraq,” he acknowledged. However, accounts that describe an ongoing civil war in Iraq are exaggerated, the Iraqi official said.