By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2006 – Iraqi security forces are becoming more capable every day and are fighting and dying for their country, where the future depends on them and their fellow citizens, the commander of U.S. Central Command said yesterday. "I come to the conclusion that Iraqis are fighting and dying for their country, that the government has pledged their sacred honor and their future to making this work," Army Gen. John Abizaid said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "Their lives are on the line."
Iraqi forces now number more than 300,000, and while they still have some bad days and challenges to overcome, they are steadily improving, Abizaid said. He also noted that numerous Iraqi officials have visited Washington, D.C., lately and have all expressed confidence and commitment in the fight against terrorism.
Critics who say the U.S. needs more troops in Iraq are of the mindset that U.S. troops should be doing all the work, Abizaid said. Leaders on the ground believe, however, that Iraqi troops must continually take more responsibility for their own country, and that the ultimate solution will not be solely military, he said.
"It's not a matter of the application of military forces only," he said. "You've got to have governance moving forward. You have to take down the militias. You have to apply military forces when you need to. Over time, you need to apply more and more Iraqi military and governance power to the equation. We can do that."
Sectarian violence is still a problem in Iraq, Abizaid acknowledged, but areas where U.S. and Iraqi troops have applied pressure have seen a slight drop in violence, and more progress will be made over time.
"Things in a counter-insurgency (mission), as you well know, take time to mature politically and militarily, and we're confident (that) with the measures we're taking now, we can be successful," he said.
The goal of coalition efforts in Iraq is for Iraq to emerge as a responsible member of the international community -- a country that will respect the rights of its people and reject terrorism and violence, Abizaid said. That is the same goal the Iraqi government has, he said, and Iraqi leaders are able and willing to make it happen.
"(Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki) is going to build an Iraq for all Iraqis, and it's a hard thing to do," Abizaid said. "They can do it."