By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2006 – The Iraqi government has been operational for about 150 days and is working to confront problems facing the country. It has taken some time for the government to "get their legs under them," but it is moving forward now, Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said in a Pentagon news conference Oct. 11.
"(The Iraqi government is) working hard to build unity, security and prosperity for all Iraqis. And when I talk about those three priorities with the prime minister, he fully recognizes that if you want prosperity, if you have to have security, and if you want to have security, you have to have unity," Casey said. "And he's been making a very significant effort on the reconciliation front."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has often said that the situation in Iraq will be resolved by a combination of political, economic and military efforts. The Iraqi government must move to unite the people and provide jobs for the "angry young men" in the country, he has said.
"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recognizes that while the military side or the security side is not the total answer, he does recognize that it's part of the answer," Rumsfeld said following a meeting with Maliki in July. "And as a result, he and General George Casey have been in very close consultation about increasing the size of the security forces there and simultaneously pursuing the reconciliation process."
Military commanders understand this, as well. "I don't believe there is any military strategy alone, any kinetic operations that we can run alone that will create the conditions for victory which we must have," Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said during a Pentagon news conference Sept. 15. "There are economic and political conditions that have to improve out at Al Anbar, as they do everywhere in Iraq, for us to be successful."
Military force is necessary to provide security behind which a government can form and develop, but the impetus must come from the Iraqis, Marine Gen. Peter Pace told the Senate Armed Services Committee in August. "Shiia and Sunni are going to have to love their children more than they hate each other," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. "If they do that and seize the opportunity that the international community has provided to them, then this will be what we wanted (it) to be, which is a success for ourselves and the Iraqi people. But the weight of that shift must be on the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government."
This is happening, and the Iraqis are confronting thorny issues, according to State Department officials in Baghdad. On Oct. 11, the Iraqi Council of Representatives approved a federal regions law, which will allow Iraq's provinces to hold referendums to merge themselves into larger federal regions.
This is contentious among the Sunni minority in the nation. While no referendums can be held for 18 months, it will probably cement Kurdish self-rule in the North and may create a Shiite state in the south, State Department officials said this week in a weekly status report on Iraq. Both the Kurdish and Shiite areas are awash in oil, while Sunni-dominated central and western areas of Iraq have little in the way of natural resources.
The council also is addressing charges of corruption. The council voted to lift immunity to prosecution for corruption from Mishaan al-Jaburi, a Sunni tribal leader and businessman accused of looting $75 million a month from Iraq.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reached out to Sunni tribal leaders during a meeting in Anbar province Oct. 7. Sheikhs, imams and other clerics and local government leaders attended the meeting. Maliki promised to support the provincial government and fund reconstruction and basic services projects in the region.
The Iraqi government also is taking control of its armed forces. The Iraqi Ground Forces Command executed its first independent operation Oct. 6-8, when it ordered the 4th Iraqi Army Division to conduct missions in Kirkuk. The division worked to quell a rise in car bombings in the city, according to the State Department report.
On Oct. 3, the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior pulled the 8th Brigade, 2nd National Police off the streets for retraining. The unit had been implicated in sectarian violence.
The Iraqi government ordered all checkpoints in Baghdad to have an equal number of Sunni and Shiite troops manning them. The government is doing this to ensure security forces do not countenance secular attacks.
Overall, 307,800 members of the Iraqi security forces are now "trained and equipped." In the Ministry of Defense, there are 129,700 Iraqis in the army, 800 in the air force and 1,100 in the navy, for a total of 131,600.
In the Ministry of the Interior, there are 123,500 local police, 24,400 members of the national police and 28,300 members of other Interior forces -- mostly border police -- for a total of 176,200.