Way Forward in Iraq Must Sustain 'Hard-Fought' Gains, Official Says
By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2007 The way forward in Iraq must be pursued in a manner that sustains the “hard-fought gains” made by coalition troops and Iraqi forces, a senior official in Baghdad said today.
Army Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, appeared on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. Bergner discussed the situation in Iraq as Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, prepare to deliver their assessment on progress in Iraq.
Bergner said Petraeus “will provide a very candid and forthright assessment -- a first-hand account -- of his personal views of the facts on the ground ... He will cover areas where there is progress is being made … and he will also cover areas where more progress needs to be made.”
One area characterized by Bergner as a “mixed situation” is that of Iraqi security forces.
On the one hand, he said some “effective Iraqi Army leaders and their units are performing very well.” These include the Iraqi 10th Iraqi Army Division which Bergner said is doing a “superb job” south of Yussufiyah, Iraq, and the 2nd Iraqi Army Division, which recently killed al-Qaeda’s emir of Mosul during a unilateral operation.
On the other hand, there are challenges with the national police forces which Bergner said “suffered a great deal of sectarian problems in years past.” The Iraqi government, however, has take steps to address these problems.
”The government of Iraq, along with the Ministry of Interior, has replaced the battalion commanders in the national police, they have replaced some of the brigade commanders, so they have made significant changes in leadership to get at some of the problems,” Bergner said. He also noted that NATO allies are helping to train Iraq’s national police and to transform them into “a more professional and accountable force.”
A key to long-term success for Iraqi security forces is U.S. support in their efforts, Bergner said.
”Our partnership with them remains very important to their consistency and to their overall effectiveness,” he said. “As we look to the way forward, we have to find ways to sustain these hard-fought gains and in a way that enables and supports the Iraqi Army and Iraqi police forces as well.”
When asked by Blitzer about the draft of a Government Accountability Office report on Iraq scheduled to be delivered to Congress Sept. 4 but leaked to the press last week, Bergner noted that GAO report methodology is very different from the benchmarks reporting methodology required for the assessment conducted by Petraeus and Crocker.
”The GAO approach is an ‘all-or-none’ standard, so you either achieved the benchmark, or you didn’t,” Bergner said. “The benchmarks methodology that the Congress requires the administration to report on is more a description of progress and a description of efforts being made to achieve those benchmarks as well. There’s a lot of importance to understanding it in that context, because there are places where they are actually either making progress or they’re performing in the absence of those benchmarks.”
Bergner gave several examples of situations where Iraqis are achieving progress even without laws actually being in place yet.
”They’re sharing revenue today, whether there’s a revenue sharing law or not. They’re working with the provinces and sharing power with the provinces, even though they’re still working on a legislative basis for that in their society,” Bergner said. “That activity is going on even as they work toward these legislative benchmarks.”
Speaking of the surge operations, and the 15-month tours served in Iraq by U.S. Army soldiers, Bergner said senior leaders are well aware of the sacrifices being made by servicemembers.
”All of us here have tremendous respect and appreciation for the burden our troopers are carrying and I know all Americans do too,” he said. “And our soldiers and their families are carrying an enormous burden to see this important and critical effort through for our country.”
Bergner noted the temporary nature of surge operations and said Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, have been “looking at the various courses of action that would allow us to transition from the surge of forces in a way that doesn’t give up our hard-fought gains that our troopers have achieved …They’re looking at the battlefield geometry that can be used to support that, and that will be the basis of the recommendations that Gen. Petraeus will make when he comes back.”