"The focus of Multinational Force Iraq is, of course, on working with our Iraqi counterparts to help improve security for the people of Iraq in order to give Iraqi leaders the time and space they need to come to grips with the tough political issues that must be resolved. Resolution of these issues is the key to the achievement of reconciliation among the various ethnic and sectarian groups, political parties and leaders in order to achieve a lasting solution to Iraq's problems.
We are still in the relatively early stages of our new effort, about two months into it, with three of five Army surge brigades and two additional Marine battalions on the ground, and the remainder of the additional combat forces scheduled to be operating in their areas by mid-June.
Baghdad is the main effort, and we continue to establish joint security stations and combat outposts in the city and in the belts around it. The presence of coalition and Iraqi forces and increased operational tempo, especially in areas where until recently we had no sustained presence, have begun to produce results. Most significantly, Iraqi and coalition forces have helped to bring about a substantial reduction in the rate of sectarian murders each month from January until now in Baghdad, a reduction of about two-thirds. There have also been increases in weapons caches seized and the number of actionable tips received.
In the Ramadi area, for example, U.S. and Iraqi forces have found nearly as many caches in the first four months of this year as they found in all of last year.
Beyond this, we are seeing a revival of markets, renewed commerce, the return of some displaced families and the slow resumption of services, though I want to be very clear that there is vastly more work to be done across the board and in many areas, and I again note that we are really just getting started with the new effort.
I am well aware that the sense of gradual progress and achievement we feel on the ground in many areas in Iraq is often eclipsed by the sensational attacks that overshadow our daily accomplishments. While the enemy's effectiveness in carrying out such attacks has been reduced by our operations to some degree, there clearly are still far too many of them, and we obviously are focusing heavily on actions to identify and dismantle the networks that carry out car bomb and suicide vest attacks and their supporting infrastructure.
Our achievements have not come without sacrifice. Our increase in operational tempo, location of our forces in the populations they are securing and conduct of operations in areas where we previously had no presence, as well as the enemy's greater use of certain types of explosive devices, have led to an increase in our losses. Our Iraqi partners have sacrificed heavily as well, with losses generally two to three times ours or even more.
Indeed, while some Iraqi forces remain a work in progress, there should be no question that Iraq's soldiers and police are fighting and dying for their country, and a number of them have impressively shouldered their part of the burden of the fight against al Qaeda and the other enemies of the new Iraq. To help them progress, we have steadily been increasing the number of transition teams, the train and equip effort, and steadily strengthening the partnership programs between our forces and Iraqi elements.
The situation in Iraq is, in sum, exceedingly complex and very tough. Success will take continued commitment, perseverance and sacrifice, all to make possible an opportunity for the all-important Iraqi political actions that are the key to long-term solutions to Iraq's many problems. Because we are operating in new areas and challenging elements in those areas, this effort may get harder before it gets easier.
Success, in the end, will depend on Iraqi actions. As I noted during my confirmation hearing, military action is necessary but not sufficient. We can provide the Iraqis an opportunity, but they will have to exploit it.
During Secretary Gates' recent visit to Iraq, we agreed that in early September, Ambassador Ryan Crocker and I would provide an assessment of the situation in Iraq with respect to our mission and offer recommendations on the way ahead. We will be forthright in that assessment, as I believe I have been with you today.
Finally, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all Americans for their support of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and civilians serving in Iraq. Our young men and women in uniform deserve the recognition that Tom Brokaw accorded them when he described them as America's 'new greatest generation.' It's a privilege to serve with them again."
"[QUESTION]: You say that Iraq is now the central focus of al Qaeda's worldwide effort. Are you saying that al Qaeda in Iraq is now the sort of principal enemy of the U.S. forces stationed there? Before it was Shi'a groups. And do you see that al Qaeda in Iraq -- do you see any evidence that it is linked internationally to bin Laden? How many foreign fighters are actually there?
GEN. PETRAEUS: First of all, we do definitely see links to the greater al Qaeda network. I think you know that we have at various times intercepted messages to and from. There is no question but that there is a network that supports the movement of foreign fighters through Syria into Iraq.
It is something we can, you know, keep some track of in a broad way. Obviously, when we can get the final 50 meters, if you will, we then take action against it.
It is clearly the element in Iraq that conducts the sensational attacks, these attacks that, as I mentioned, cause not just horrific physical damage -- and which, by the way, have been increasingly indiscriminate. Secretary Gates noted the other day that al Qaeda has declared war on all Iraqis, and I think that that is an accurate statement. They have killed and wounded and maimed countless Iraqi civilians in addition to, certainly, coalition and Iraqi security forces, and they have done that, again, without regard to ethnosectarian identity.
That significance of al Qaeda in the conduct of the sensational attacks, the huge car bomb attacks against which we have been hardening markets, hardening neighborhoods, trying to limit movement and so forth -- those attacks, again, are of extraordinary significance because they can literally drown out anything else that might be happening.
As I mentioned, we generally in many areas -- not all, but in many areas -- have a sense of sort of incremental progress. Again, that is not transmitted at all. Of course it will never break through the noise and the understandable coverage given to it in the press of a sensational attack that kills many Iraqis.
So this is a -- you know, it is a very significant enemy. I think it is probably public enemy number one. It is the enemy whose actions sparked the enormous increase in sectarian violence that did so much damage to Iraq in 2006, the bombing of the Al Askari mosque in Samarra, the gold-domed mosque there, the third holiest Shi'a shrine. And it is the organization that continues to try to reignite not just sectarian violence but ethnic violence, as well, going after Iraqi Kurds in Nineveh province and Kirkuk and areas such as that, as well. So again, I think a very, very significant enemy in that regard."
"We will have seen [by September] additional Iraqi security forces -- I forget the exact number that is being trained just in the month of May that will graduate from this greatly expanded institutional training capacity of the Iraqis. I think it's in the order of 7,000 to 9,000 in the military alone."
"The Iranian involvement has really become much clearer to us and brought into much more focus during the interrogation of the members -- the heads of the Qazali network and some of the key members of that network that have been in detention now for a month or more."
"I don't think we have found a link [of Iran] to the spectacular car-bomb attacks, which we believe are generally al Qaeda and elements sort of connected to al Qaeda. Typically, in fact, still we believe that, oh, 80 to 90 percent of the suicide attacks are carried out by foreigners. That's a network, again, that typically brings them in through Syria and is again a major concern and certainly a hope that Syria will crack down on the ability of people to come through their airport and so forth and then be brought into Iraq."
"[Prime Minister Maliki is] not the Prime Minister Tony Blair of Iraq. He does not have a parliamentary majority. He does not have his ministers in all of the different ministries. They are from all kinds of different parties. They sometimes sound a bit discordant in their statements to the press and their statements to other countries. It's a very, very challenging situation in which to lead."
"Well, look, I think first of all that the tribal elements of Iraq are a fact of life, and that what Iraq eventually will have is some form of government that at least listens to and incorporates the views of tribes and sheikhs, particularly in an area like Anbar province. Now, it varies when you're in cities; the tribal influence is less.
But I think that, candidly, a mistake that we may have made in early days was not to pay enough attention to these very important elements of Iraqi society, which still play a very, very key role and are really, you know, a lot more than I think sort of the stereotypical view of tribes. I mean, each tribe generally has a construction company, an import-export business, and a trucking company as well. I mean these are entrepreneurs as well as tribes, and they provide a variety of services to the members of their tribes.
So I think, again, that what results in Anbar province will actually have the features of democratic governance representing the citizens of Anbar province and being responsive to them.
But among those elements to whom they are responsive will be certainly the sheikhs and the leaders of the major tribes in that area, because of the allegiance that the people give to them."
"[T]he progress is interesting, because it's a negative. It means nothing happened, in most cases. In other words, there were not sectarian murders. Whether that is newsworthy before it goes on for several weeks is obviously arguable.
But anyway, so what I asked was, 'Hey, come on, it's about dusk, let's go -- we'll fly around the city a little bit.' And we flew around. And so -- I mean, it was unbelievable.
This is a day in which I think there was a car bomb in Iraq, some of . . . [Baghdad's] seven million citizens were affected by that, but you could not have told that from what we saw over the city. There were three big amusement parks operational. I'm talking about, you know, roller coaster kinds of -- these are not just a couple little merry-go-rounds in small neighborhood parks. Restaurants in some parts of the city were booming. Lots of markets were open. The people were on the street. There were -- there had to be a thousand soccer games ongoing. They're watering the grass in various professional soccer fields -- the soccer leagues.
You know, all of this is actually so foreign, I think, in the mind of most people who see the news and of course do see that day's explosion or something like that. And actually there is a city of seven million in which life goes on, and again, citizens are determined to carry on with their life."source
U.S. Department of Defense. DoD News Briefing with Gen. Petraeus from the Pentagon. (Transcript). April 26, 2007.
The Pentagon Channel. Pentagon Briefing 26 April 2007. (Click appropriate link or use search box).
posted: sunday, april 29, 2007, 5:54 AM ET
tags: iraq petraeus
Labels: al qaeda, american military, david petraeus, iran, iraq, nuri al-maliki