December 13th, 2006 07:58 EST
Outgoing Commander Stresses Importance of Economic Progress in Iraq
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2006 – The military is doing all it can to calm Iraq, but the country needs political and economic solutions to function, the outgoing commander of Multinational Corps Iraq said yesterday.
In an interview with Baghdad-based journalists, Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who gives up command tomorrow, said military, economic, reconstruction and political efforts in Iraq must move forward at the same time. Iraq cannot succeed with one line working and the others treading water or reverting, he said.
If Iraqis get back to work, the sectarian strife would lessen, Chiarelli said. Polls in Baghdad show that if the Iraqi government could improve job satisfaction there by a small amount, “it would have really, really a major impact on the sectarian violence we're seeing,” he said.
It’s not like there isn’t work to be had. The United Nations estimates it will take $60 billion to rehabilitate an Iraqi infrastructure decimated by 30 years of misrule under Saddam Hussein.
The commander said Marines in Anbar province -- right now one of the deadliest places in the country -- have been working not only to stop the violence with military force, but also to look to a more productive future. “We concentrate on the fight that's going on in al Anbar, but there are lots of fantastic things going on that (Marine Maj. Gen.) Rick Zilmer and his guys have brought on board that have given people out in al Anbar a feeling that their life is getting better and could get a lot better,” Chiarelli said.
“It is in those economic lines of operation and what (the Marines have) done in putting people back to work, what they've done to start to provide basic services to people who haven't had them for so long that has had a tremendous impact out there,” he continued.
But there is a military line that must work also. Chiarelli, who commanded the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad in 2004, said he was impressed with progress the Iraqi army had made when he went back to Iraq in December 2005. “The Iraqi army is continuing to improve and get better every day,” he said.
“From where I sit, in military operations … we have not lost the battle nor will we lose the battle,” he said. “We have certain strategic goals that (Army Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., Multinational Force Iraq commander) has laid out, and I think he'd be the first to tell you that we are making progress on those strategic goals. But none of us would make the claim that it's going as fast as we want it to go. It just isn't. It's a very, very difficult problem set. It's so complicated.
“My ability to move the Iraqi army along is dependent upon … General Casey's … and the (Iraqi) government's ability to become a functioning government that can provide for its military.”
Building a logistics base, medical capabilities, air support and all the aspects necessary to maintain a military in operations is a focus of training the Iraqi military. In addition, coalition officials are beefing up American military transition teams embedded with Iraqi units. The teams are currently embedded at battalion and higher levels. Soon they will be embedded down to company level, Chiarelli said.
“Those things all have to be built, and the capability has to be built inside the Iraqi government to provide that for its soldiers,” he said. “And that is, in fact, a difficult thing and one of the things that we're working very, very hard on. The ministerial capacity thing is huge.”
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service