By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2006 – Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has agreed to benchmarks with timetables, 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, DoD officials said.
Khalilzad and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the commander of Multinational Force Iraq, talked about benchmarks negotiated between the Iraqi government and the coalition on 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.
But the next day, Maliki seemed to 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, all that seems water over the dam. "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."
The statement did not list what the benchmarks are.