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Media Availability with Secretary Gates and Gen. Petraeus from Fallujah

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Multinational Force-Iraq Commanding General Gen. David Petraeus
April 19, 2007
            Q     (In progress) -- what can the U.S. do to speed up that reconciliation process?
           
            GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, let me associate myself with the secretary of Defense's remarks. (Laughs.) I think that's a wonderful idea.
           
            Obviously -- in fact, General Odierno and I were talking to the secretary earlier today and again noted that of course what we're trying to do is to help the Iraqis improve the security situation and to provide a window of opportunity and time and space that will allow Iraqi leaders to resolve some of these very tough issues that are out there confronting them -- among those, the need to reconcile in a variety of different ways the reform of the de-Ba'athification law, the hydrocarbon law, provincial elections, provincial powers, and so forth.
           
            Those are hugely important for all Iraqis to feel a stake in the success of the new Iraq. And so the secretary has that exactly right.
           
            Q     General, how do incidents like yesterday impede that process, and how do you see the Iraqis responding to that?
 
            GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, yesterday was a bad day. There's no two ways about it. And a day like that can have a real psychological impact. And it came at a time where frankly again, General Odierno and I and a lot of the other leaders in Baghdad and throughout Iraq have felt that we were getting a bit of traction -- it was very -- it's almost imperceptible at times, but that there was slow progress with the Baghdad security plan and in some other parts of the country as well -- certainly first and foremost Anbar province; that that progress manifested itself in particular in sort of a driving down of the sectarian murders, which were very high in the past, and actually tore at the fabric of Iraqi society and changed the environment in which everyone is now operating. 
           
            The Iraqi leaders responded very resolutely, and they have been -- they called an immediate meeting last night. The ambassador and I met with the prime minister. The security leaders all met late last night to discuss actions to take to improve security, to focus intelligence on the car bomb networks. And they met again today for that very purpose. And of course lots of other activities ongoing below the levels at the very top, and also meetings among the political leaders and leaders of the different sects and ethnic groups in Iraq as well.
           
            Q     General, what do you say to those back home -- and there are many of them, and I guess you'll be talking to some of them next week -- who say that the events yesterday, the bombing in the Green Zone -- this shows that the Baghdad security plan isn't working?
           
            GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, we have always been very upfront in saying that this is about months, not days or weeks. We have noted that there's only about 60 percent, still, of the surge forces on the ground. Others are still flowing in. It will be in mid-June or so when all of the forces will be in place and we can see the effects of the real surge, and even then it will take some time, we think, before you can actually develop what that capability will provide you. 
           
            I mentioned one area in which we have seen some progress. Clearly these sensational attacks can't be anything other than viewed as setbacks and challenges, and it does show that the enemy has a vote. And the enemy in this case, al Qaeda, clearly is intent on trying to reignite sectarian violence and on trying to derail the Baghdad security plan. And I think the Iraqi leaders and the coalition leaders have shown the determination to give back.
           
            Q     General, if you were --
           
            SEC. GATES: Let me --
           
            GEN. PETRAEUS: Please.
           
            SEC. GATES: Tonight I'll be meeting -- looking forward to meeting with General Petraeus. Admiral Fallon -- the chairman and I will sit down and talk with General Petraeus and General Odierno and get their in-depth evaluation of how they think things are going and what they see the prospects will be. 
           
            So maybe one more question, then we'll get on our way. 
           
            Q     Could I ask -- for both of you, General Petraeus and Secretary Gates. As General Petraeus says, you only have the full level of the surge by mid-June. Doesn't that mean it's realistic to expect that you will keep that level for -- at least until the end of the year to generate substantial results?
           
            SEC. GATES: Well, I think -- I think that the 5th Brigade comes in in mid-May. Right? Or maybe--
           
            GEN. PETRAEUS: Sir, it will be -- it arrives in mid-May. It will be in position in early June.
 
            SEC. GATES: I think the answer to that question is the same that it's been all along: How long it lasts will depend on the situation on the ground.
           
            Q     Thank you.
           
            Q     Thank you, sir.
 
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