October 28th, 2006 05:58 EST
Iraqi Government makes progress, security situation improves
WASHINGTON — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to benchmarks with timelines, according to a joint statement with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.
"The Iraqi government has made clear the issues that must be resolved, with timelines to take positive steps forward on behalf of the Iraqi people,” the two men said in the joint statement, issued after they met today.
U.S. officials have said that benchmarks are ways to help push along ideas. Accomplishing the benchmarks is a way of measuring progress and assessing accomplishments, Department of Defense officials said.
Khalilzad and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, talked about benchmarks negotiated between the Iraqi Government and Coalition Oct. 24. “As they take these steps, we can produce success and bring about Iraqi self-reliance, (but) we must continue to support them,” Khalilzad said at the time.
The next day, Maliki seemed to take a slight step back from the idea of benchmarks. During a Baghdad press conference, the prime minister said he had not agreed to a timetable. "I affirm that this government represents the will of the people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it," he said.
But now, the prime minister has reaffirmed his position. "We are pleased to meet today to discuss our ongoing efforts to bring peace and security to Iraq and create a better future for all Iraqis,” the two men said. “Iraq and the United States are committed to working together to respond to the needs of the people. The United States fully supports their goals and will help make them a success.”
The statement recognizes that there are many difficulties in the way of establishing a democratic, free Iraq. “We know that our continued strong partnership will allow us to meet the challenges facing Iraq,” the two men said in their statement.
"The United States will continue to stand by the Iraqi Government, and the Iraqi Government welcomes the support of the United States as it moves forward with plans for national reconciliation and the strengthening of the Iraqi security forces.
"The government of Iraq is committed to work toward a good and strong relationship with the U.S. government, to work together toward a democratic, stable Iraq and to confront the terrorist challenge in the light of strategic alliances between the two countries."
And while the government is making headway on the political front, the security situation in Baghdad improved steadily over the past five days this week, despite efforts by an active insurgency, al-Qaida and other elements working within Iraq. According to Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, Multi-National Force – Iraq spokesman, areas previously cleared by Iraqi and Coalition Forces have seen a drop in murders and violent attacks.
“Progress and violence do coexist here in Iraq. The security situation in parts of the country are complex, but the Iraqi government is constantly persevering to find solutions in the face of difficult challenges.
“We, the Coalition Forces, are constantly adapting our efforts to enable this government to continue to make the difficult choices and to set the conditions for an Iraq that can govern, defend, and to sustain itself,” Caldwell concluded at a press briefing Thursday.
Courtesy American Forces Press Service