January 12th, 2007 02:27 EST
Year of historic highs, heartbreaking lows
2006 was a year of historic highs and heartbreaking lows for Iraq. The Iraqi people continued to work to overcome the legacy of 35 years of brutal dictatorship, and to build a secure, stable, and self-governing nation. Iraqis achieved many accomplishments in 2006 that can serve as the foundation for future progress:
- Iraq seated the first democratically elected permanent government in its history. Months of negotiations produced a national unity government rather than a government that privileges the interests of one sect or ethnicity over others.
- The Council of Representatives passed its first significant pieces of legislation, the Fuel Import Liberalization Law and the Investment Law.
- Iraqis have stepped up and begun creating Iraqi solutions to the challenge of Iraq’s security:
- Responsibility for security was transferred to Provincial Iraqi Control in three provinces: Muthanna, Dhi Qar, and Najaf. The Iraqi Army and Police now have overall responsibility for all law enforcement and security activities in these provinces, answerable to the respective Provincial Governors and Councils.
- On January 1st, 2006, only one of Iraq’s ten Army Division’s was responsible for its own battle space, meaning it could plan, coordinate, and conduct security operations independent of Coalition forces. Today, 80 percent of Iraq’s Divisions require only limited Coalition support.
These achievements are important. But neither the Multi-National Force Iraq (MNF-I), nor the Iraqi people, achieved the strategic conditions we wanted to at the end of 2006.
Iraq continues to be plagued by unacceptably high levels of violence. After the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, the threat of terrorism was overtaken by a dramatic increase in sectarian violence, which is now the gravest strategic threat to our objectives in Iraq and the expressed desire of the Iraqi people to live in a multi-ethnic, multi-sect, unified country. Moreover, the cost in innocent Iraqi lives taken by terrorists and extremist death squads is terrible in and of itself.
Thousands of families -- both Iraqi and American -- have been shattered by the death of a loved one in this war. More than 800 American servicemen and women gave their lives in service to their country in Iraq this year. The loss of every single one of these brave Americans is a terrible tragedy for a family somewhere. Even as we continue to work to secure Iraq and build a better future for the people of this region, we extend our deepest condolences for their loss.
We open 2007 facing significant challenges. Iraqi Security Forces must not only continue to improve their capabilities, but also must work to gain the confidence of all of Iraq’s peoples. The Government of Iraq and the Council of Representatives will have to rise above past divisions and work to realize the Iraqi people’s desire for unity. This will likely entail difficult decisions on reforms of the De-Ba’athification process and hard compromises necessary for national reconciliation.
MNF-I is committed to conducting operations and developing Iraqi forces in order to provide the stability necessary for this political progress to occur. Coalition forces remain dedicated to this mission, and have not given up on the Iraqis. We cannot write off a country whose people have not given up on themselves.
The United States, without always knowing it, has been fighting the forces of extremism emanating from this region since 1983, when the Marine barracks in Beirut were attacked. This violent extremism resulted in the 1993 World Trade CenterKhobar Tower and U.S. Embassy bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and of course, the September 11th attacks. attack, the
The Iraqi people suffered under a brutal tyranny for even longer. In partnership with the Iraqi people, we are fighting to demonstrate that there is an alternative besides tyranny and extremism for the people of this region. Success will create a better life for the Iraqi people and greater security for people of the United States. If we fail, a new breeding ground for terrorism will have been created that will threaten both Iraqis and Americans. This is what we perceive to be at stake in Iraq as we enter 2007.
There is cause for optimism in spite of the daunting challenges we face. The servicemen and women of MNF-I draw inspiration and hope from the fact that we are joined, not opposed, by the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people in this struggle. We share their vision for a free and prosperous Iraq, and are committed to solving their nation’s problems
By Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV
Spokesman, Multi-National Force - Iraq