Iraqis Must Decide to End Sectarian Violence, Pace Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Aug. 12, 2006 The Iraqi people are the ones who must decide that sectarian violence must end, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace (right), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, talk at Baghdad International Airport, Iraq, Aug. 12. Pace was in Iraq to meet with U.S. military commanders and to visit the troops deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“The Shiite and Sunni leaders are going to have to love their kids more than they hate each other, so they can go about building their country,” said Marine Gen. Peter Pace. The general spoke to reporters on his way to Iraq.
He said sectarian violence has eclipsed the insurgency as the primary cause of instability in Iraq. Some insurgents have embraced sectarian conflict as a way to further their own aims, he explained, and al Qaeda in Iraq has long wanted to set the sects against each other.
“Clearly, some folks want Iraq to be ungovernable,” Pace said. “They are the ones who are primarily responsible for the random violence.”
Pace said no outside group can come in and impose sectarian calm. The Iraqi people are going to have to come to the conclusion that compromise and finding ways “to work together, as opposed to the death squads,” is the way forward.
The chairman said he will meet with coalition leaders in Iraq, and that he plans on discussing troop levels with Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of the Multinational Force Iraq. Although officials extended the originally planned one-year tour in Iraq for soldiers of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team to aid in pacification of Baghdad, troop cuts still may occur, the chairman told reporters.
“It’s important to always have troop levels on the table every week and every month, and they are,” Pace said. “As recently as a month ago, we thought (troop levels) would come down based on what the battlefield looked like at the time. (The battlefield) changed with the sectarian violence, and General Casey’s assessment was that he needed more troops immediately to solve that problem. He asked for it, and that’s what he got.”
Pace said Casey is going through the assessment and these assessments are continually made. The analysis will continue and the enemy gets a vote, the chairman said. But the Iraqi people also get a vote, he said, and that may work to curb the violence.
While saying the number of U.S. troops in Iraq may fall in the future, Pace was careful to say that the number of troops overall will continue to rise. Iraqi forces are playing an increasingly important role in the security of their own country. Some 277,600 members of the Iraqi security forces are “trained and equipped” today, he noted, adding that by the end of the year, that number will rise to 325,000.
In Baghdad, officials beefed up the number of U.S. and Iraqi troops. There were 54,000 troops – 47,000 Iraqis – in the city and its environs before the outbreak of sectarian violence, Pace said.
“That had a beneficial effect for the first couple of weeks, then the sectarian violence spiked and General Casey, working with (Iraqi) Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said it was time to add more both U.S. and Iraqi forces,” Pace said. The 172nd is the U.S. contribution to the effort.
Since more troops arrived, the violence in Baghdad has come down, Pace said. The objective is to have a much more stable Baghdad by Ramadan, the annual Muslim month of fasting, which begins this year on Sept. 24.
The general said the effort in Baghdad is really “a thickening of our support for the Iraqis.” The Iraqi army and police retain primary responsibility for security. The Stryker Brigade brings a very potent, rapid-reaction capacity to backstop the Iraqi security forces, he said.