Set Conditions


03 MAY 2007

Strengthen the Government of Iraq (GOI) by working with regional, international, and interagency partners to develop emerging institutions while conducting operations with Iraqi Security Forces to reduce violence and transition security responsibilities to the GOI.

CENTCOM's Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) leads nearly 145,000 US and 12,600 Coalition personnel from 26 countries who are working to develop critical security and governance capabilities. Our shared goal is a representative government in Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides security, and is an ally in the War on Terror.

Accomplishing these objectives requires the focused attention of all elements of the US Government. The explosion of sectarian violence, highlighted by the February 22, 2006, al-Qaida bombing of the al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra, has dramatically changed the security and political situation. After enduring almost three years of attacks conducted primarily by terrorists and foreign fighters, Shi'a militants retaliated with a sustained campaign of kidnapping, torture, and murder. The ongoing sectarian violence became self-sustaining and threatened economic and political progress.

With the ongoing surge of Iraqi and US security forces and renewed interagency commitment, I believe we can establish greater security in support of the emerging Iraqi political process. The surge of additional military forces into Baghdad in Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Law and Order) has disrupted extremist elements, at least temporarily reduced ethnic violence, and has been welcomed by the majority of the city's people. The establishment of Joint Security Stations offers some enduring promise of improved Iraqi and Coalition force coordination and presence in neighborhoods. I believe these posts will also improve our access to information about insurgent activities.

That said, I recognize that we have a limited opportunity in which to capitalize on the potential offered by the surge. The local populace must see tangible results to gain a sense of a more hopeful future, and as a result, come to believe in alternatives to extremism.

Insurgent groups in Iraq have multiple and often competing motivations for perpetuating violence. However, a common thread is their opposition to US and Coalition presence and refusal to accept the legitimacy of an inclusive, representative government. Al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) seeks to incite a sectarian war between Sunni and Shi'a Arabs through despicable and highly visible attacks on civilians. There is very little popular support for these groups. Some Sunni communities appear to be resisting al-Qaida in Iraq's intimidation. Several local leaders and their supporters have begun to actively support the regular Iraqi Police and Army forces against extremist threats.

Some Shi'a militias, especially Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM), seek to increase their political influence and to expand illegitimate activities under the guise of protecting their communities. These groups threaten stability and undermine confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces and the central government. Their death squads are responsible for the majority of the sectarian violence against Sunnis in Baghdad. Infiltration of the police by their members is especially problematic, as it undermines faith in fledgling Iraqi institutions.

Neutralizing these groups depends in part on disrupting the support they receive through neighboring countries. The transfer of lethal technology, weapons, and money from elements in Iran to Shi'a militias threatens stability. Similarly, Sunni Arab extremists continue to receive external moral, material, and logistical assistance from private supporters in Syria and elsewhere. To counter these influences and take bold steps to bridge factional divides, the Government of Iraq needs steadfast support from the international community and its neighbors.

I do not believe these differing factions in Iraq share a similar vision of an inclusive political middle ground, nor do they agree how to get there. The Government of Iraq must move toward inclusion by passing legislation on reconciliation, sharing of oil and gas revenues, and provincial powers. Furthermore, holding timely provincial elections and passing constitutional amendments on the matters agreed upon last year would reduce incentives for violence.

I also found that poor budget execution has inhibited infrastructure development and the provision of basic services to Iraq's citizens. While the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) are helping improve local government performance and capacity, it will take considerable time to institute long term good governance. In the near-term, communities would benefit from job creation programs, a significant expansion of microcredits, and rehabilitation of viable state owned enterprises that can open for business quickly.

Development of an effective and self-sufficient Iraqi Security Force (ISF) continues to be a top priority. In January 2006, there were 230,000 members in the combined security forces. Today there are more than 330,000 soldiers and policemen who have received training and equipment. Although overall logistics capabilities are underdeveloped, the ISF is able to sustain units below the division level.

The ISF is improving in capability, expanding command and control of operations, and taking an increasing role in confronting extremists and criminals. The Police still lag behind the Army in terms of individual and unit proficiency and reliability. In both forces, the units with strong leadership perform most effectively in combat operations.

As we look to the future, we will continue the transition of responsibilities to Iraq's government as conditions allow. This should give its people additional confidence to build and sustain their institutions.

Achieving our strategic goals in Iraq will require the focused efforts of our government's capabilities, the participation of key Iraqi factions, a reduction in external destabilizing influences, and most importantly, courageous and consistent good leadership by the Government of Iraq.


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