By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 11, 2007 – President Bush's new strategy for Iraq includes expanding the number of provincial reconstruction teams from 10 to at least 18 in order to better support political and economic progress, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a news conference today. Rice joined Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in discussing some of the measures President Bush outlined in last night's address to the nation about the new way forward in Iraq. The plan includes 20,000 more U.S. troops on the ground, increased responsibility for the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces, and more diplomatic and economic initiatives.
"We will double the number of provincial reconstruction teams," Bush announced last night. "These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance."
Rice told reporters today the State Department, which oversees PRTs in Iraq, is ready to move forward with this effort, with emphasis on the parts of Iraq where the teams are needed most.
"In Baghdad, we will go from one PRT to six, and in Anbar province, from one to three, because local leaders are taking encouraging steps there to confront violent extremists and to build hope for their people," she said.
Getting more experts into Iraqi provinces to assist the leaders there "will enhance and diversify our chances of success in Iraq," she said.
"The logic behind PRTs is simple," Rice said. "Success in Iraq relies on more than military efforts; it requires robust political and economic progress.
"Our military operations must be fully supported and integrated with our civilian and diplomatic efforts across the entire U.S. government to help Iraqis clear, hold and build throughout all of Iraq," she said.
Gates told reporters Bush's new plan offers a better balance of U.S. military and non-military efforts than in the past. "We cannot succeed in Iraq without the important non-military elements Secretary Rice just mentioned," he said.
The PRT concept was first successfully applied in Afghanistan after the Taliban government was removed from power, Robert Tillery, the chief of staff from the (Iraq) National Coordination Team who works with provincial PRTs throughout Iraq, told reporters in Baghdad during an October news conference.
PRTs in Iraq "enforce and bolster the ability of the provincial governments to lead and to respond to the needs of their people," he explained.
"By helping local governments more effectively address the needs of their citizens, they will gain the support of their people," Tillery said. "Citizen support and confidence in government institutions is critical to a successful democracy."
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