By Donna Miles
Nov. 9, 2006 – This week's elections sent a signal that America, just like Iraq, is in a period of transition, but in no way diminish the two countries' mutual commitment to success in Iraq, the spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq said today in Baghdad. "Here in Iraq, we look forward to working with a new secretary after the Senate confirmation process," Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told military analysts by phone.
"We are aware that there will be changes on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon and that a period of transition will occur," he said. "But we also heard the president's commitment to sustain our partnership with the people and government of Iraq." Events in Iraq demonstrate the complex dynamics involved in transition, Caldwell said. "With transition, obviously, comes change, and with change comes challenges," he said. "And these challenges are sometimes perceived as setbacks when, in fact, they are actually signs of growth."
Iraq is growing in myriad ways, he said, improving its ability to govern itself, provide its own security and revitalize its economy. "Throughout this period of transition, we are firmly dedicated to help the Iraqis achieve our common goal, and that is an Iraq that can govern, defend and sustain itself," Caldwell said.
He cited changes in Iraq's security situation, with violence down during the past two weeks since Ramadan ended and diminishing capabilities of al Qaeda in Iraq.
Efforts by Iraqi security forces and coalition troops, and most recently, by tribal elements in Anbar province, are proving effective against al Qaeda operatives, he said. "We continue to see evidence that our efforts are achieving results against their ability to finance and both execute and conduct operations," he said.
Meanwhile, sectarian violence remains a challenge, with death squads and illegitimate armed militias threatening the security situation, Caldwell said. More than 90 percent of these incidents are occurring within 30 miles of Baghdad, he said.
Caldwell said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's work with tribal sheiks and religious leaders to promote religious reconciliation and unity is "promising."
Another positive change, he said, is the Iraqi government's focus on improving its security forces and Maliki's initiative to increase their numbers to improve their flexibility and responsiveness. Currently, 319,000 Iraqi security and police forces are trained and equipped. Previous plans had set a goal of 325,000 security forces, but Maliki wants 355,000.
Caldwell called these developments and initiatives a positive sign for Iraq. "The Iraqi government continues its efforts to become the lead partner in providing the security for its people," he said. "They continue to take positive steps to increase their capabilities. These developments are having a real impact, we feel, on the daily lives of Iraqis."