Wednesday, 25 October 2006
Multi-National Force-Iraq Commanding General U.S. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad conduct a joint press conference in Baghdad, Oct. 24. Official Department of Defense photo. BAGHDAD
Multi-National Force-Iraq Commanding General U.S. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad conduct a joint press conference in Baghdad, Oct. 24. Official Department of Defense photo.
BAGHDAD— The senior U.S. troop commander in Iraq expressed his belief, Oct. 24, that the country can be stabilized, while acknowledging the “difficult and complex” situation here.
“Several factors add to the complexity that we’re now seeing” in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq, told reporters in Baghdad. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad accompanied Casey at the news conference.
Since the Iraqi elections in December 2005, the nature of the conflict has evolved “from what was an insurgency against us, to a struggle for the division of political and economic power among the Iraqis,” Casey said.
The Feb. 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra fanned the existing animosity between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite citizens, Casey noted.
Al-Qaida, which has an active strategy to foment sectarian violence across Iraq, is further inflaming the situation, Casey said.
Sectarian death squads and illegal militias are attacking and murdering Iraqi civilians living in the central and southern parts of the country, Casey said. Resistance -- mostly led by members of Saddam Hussein’s deposed regime – is active and causing trouble, he added.
In addition, Iran and Syria continue to stir up unrest and meddle in Iraqi affairs, the four-star general said.
“Both Iran and Syria continue to be decidedly unhelpful by providing support to the different extremist and terrorist groups operating inside Iraq,” he said.
Casey noted that the new government is only about 150-days old and that “the intensities” of the annual Ramadan religious period are adding to an already tense situation.
“It makes for a difficult situation, and it’s likely to remain that way for the near term,” he said.
U.S. military forces in Iraq “have continuously adapted to stay ahead of the enemy and to ensure that our U.S. servicemen and women have the proper tools and support they need to accomplish the mission,” Casey said.
After the Iraqi elections, “we determined that we needed to enhance the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Force to develop and to succeed in security operations,” Casey explained, noting U.S. advisors were embedded in Iraqi security units in February 2005.
A concerted effort was made to secure the Syrian border to prevent foreign fighters and suicide bombers from crossing into Iraq, Casey said. By November 2005, U.S. and Iraqi Security Force had succeeded in controlling that border.
“We are about 75 percent of the way through a three-step process in building those forces,” said Casey. “And, it's going to take another 12 to 18 months or so till I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security – still, probably, with some level of support from us, but that will be directly asked for by the Iraqis.”
Casey said the “complex environment” seen in Iraq today “would be resolved primarily by Iraqis, but with our full support.”
Much U.S. attention has been devoted to the security situation in Baghdad, Casey said, noting U.S. forces were shifted to confront a recent spike of insurgent-led violence in and around Iraq’s capital city.
“And, we also have increased our targeting efforts against death squads to match our efforts against al Qaida,” he added.
The United States supports Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s national reconciliation initiative, the general said. Engagement talks with a view toward stopping the violence are ongoing with some of the resistance elements, he added.
(Courtesy of American Forces Press Service)
In other developments throughout Iraq:
- The Coalition Force killed six insurgents, wounded four and netted five sniper rifles Oct. 22 in the Euphrates River city of Hit, Iraq.
- The Iraqi Army assumed responsibility of an area in northern Ramadi today. The 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade of the 7th Iraqi Army Division, commanded by Colonel Kareem, officially assumed battle space at 11 a.m. today at a ceremony on forward operating base Blue Diamond.
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