By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
April 26, 2007 – Senior U.S. leaders on the ground in Iraq plan to evaluate the success of the new security plan and provide an assessment of the situation to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates by early September, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said here today. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, told Pentagon reporters that he and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, will provide the assessment, which will measure progress in the areas of security, economics, governance and rule of law.
September will be a good time for the assessment, because the additional U.S. forces that are being deployed to Iraq will have been on the ground for several months, more Iraqi security forces will be trained and equipped, and the Iraqi government will have had time to make more progress, Petraeus said.
"We'll have seen whether in fact our efforts in these areas have helped produce the kind of progress that they're designed, in fact, to produce and to see if there is an exploitation of the opportunity that we believe our soldiers and Iraqi soldiers and police will have provided to the Iraqi governmental leaders to come to grips, again, with some of these really tough legislative issues," he said.
In the security arena, the leaders will be looking at how successful U.S. and Iraqi forces have been at securing the Iraqi population, which is essential to enable political progress, and the progress of the Iraqi security forces, Petraeus said. In the economic arena, they will evaluate how the Iraqi government is spending its money, both nationally and provincially, and the progress of private banking in the country.
In the area of governance, Petraeus said he and Crocker will be looking for progress on key legislation and the development of governmental and ministerial capacity. Under rule of law, they will focus on the progress of Iraq's criminal justice and detention systems, which have posed big challenges for the government, he said.
Progress is being made in Iraq, but it is often overshadowed by sensational attacks, such as car bombs, that inflict mass casualties, Petraeus said. U.S. and Iraqi forces are working to counter these attacks, but it is a daunting task and realistically, the attacks will continue for some time, he said.
"In an environment where to prevent those (attacks), you know, the Iraqi and coalition forces have to protect everything and (the terrorists) only have to attack one thing, some of that is going to happen," Petraeus said.
Progress in Iraq is often very difficult to demonstrate, because many times it involves the lack of violence, and it's only newsworthy if that calm lasts for a long period of time, Petraeus said. However, he said, while the sensational attacks grab headlines, levels of sectarian violence are going down in Baghdad, businesses are reopening, and people are slowly returning to normal lives.
Petraeus described a recent evening helicopter ride over Baghdad after a day in which there was a car bomb attack. Three big amusement parks were operational, restaurants in some parts of the city were booming, lots of markets were open, people were on the street, and soccer games were going on.
"All of this is actually so foreign, I think, in the mind of most people who see the news and of course do see that day's explosion or something like that," he said. "And actually, there is a city of 7 million in which life goes on, and again, citizens are determined to carry on with their life."
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