Myers Tells Nashville Crowd Prospects in Iraq 'Good'
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 31, 2004 The ceasefire brokered in Najaf was a good sign for the Iraqi interim government, the top U.S. military leader said here today, adding that the long-term prospect in Iraq "is very, very good."
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told the regional Chamber of Commerce meeting that the government led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi used all angles to help end the fighting in the region.
The bottom line, the chairman said, is that radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia is out of the Imam Ali Mosque, and the forces of the interim government are in the Shiia holy site. The Iraqi government looked at all aspects of the situation in Najaf and used political, diplomatic and military options in the situation. Myers said that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was key to solving the problem in the city, but it was a learning experience for the interim government.
"There's still going to be challenges (in Iraq)," the chairman said during a media availability following the speech. The area west and north of Baghdad the so-called Sunni Triangle is still a tough area and presents many problems to the Iraqi government and the supporting coalition, he said.
Myers said the Iraqi security forces in and around Najaf, Sadr City and other hot spots did much better in the recent spate of fighting than they did in April and May, when Sadr's militia launched similar attacks. "There are still a lot of Iraqi security forces that need to be trained, that need to be equipped and get the proper leadership," he said. "Those that have been trained and equipped and were in this endeavor did very, very well."
He said in April and May the performance of the Iraqi police, the Civil Defense Corps now the Iraqi National Guard -- and the Iraqi army was uneven, but tending toward poor. He said that while some units did well, others broke and ran or did not show up at all.
In the recent fighting, it was still uneven, but tending toward good, Myers said. The chairman said the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people probably was one big difference for the security forces. "They now know they are fighting for the Iraqi government, they have clear lines of authority, and they felt that this was for their people," he said.
The coalition has sped up training of the Iraqi security forces. Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus is now responsible for all Iraqi training. NATO has signed on to aid in the effort. "As soon as that can happen, the better," Myers said. "We've got a full-court press on, on building Iraqi security forces."
He said the length of the U.S. involvement in Iraq will be determined by events on the ground. The size of the force will be determined by the enemy and the capabilities needed to counter the enemy, he added.
The general told the packed hall that they should not view the overall effort in the global war on terrorism as a military problem to be solved, but rather as an effort requiring all aspects of national will. The United States will win the war on terror, he said. The United States must join with allies to end the conditions that encourage "young men and women to embrace extremism."
Myers will visit Fort Campbell, Ky., and address the American Legion Convention here before returning to Washington.