By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
May 28, 2007 – The Iraqi government needs to step forward to make progress in governance and revitalize the economy, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today during appearances on various morning television talk shows. Marine Gen. Peter Pace also used the television appearances to thank servicemembers and their families on Memorial Day.
"It is very difficult to talk about numbers of those who have died in combat, but the fact of the matter is that freedom is not free," Pace said on NBC's Today. "We must protect our freedoms at home and abroad, and the men and women in uniform today understand how important their service is. This is not an easy fight, but they understand its value and importance to our nation."
On CBS This Morning, Pace said that American servicemembers serving in Iraq understand they are buying time for the Iraqi government to set its house in order. "It is time for the Iraqi government to stand up to lead, to pull their people together, to make it so we can do what we would like us to do and they would like us to do: Come home," Pace said.
The Iraqi security forces are increasing and the readiness rates are going up. "But their leadership is going to have to show that they can pull together a unity government and lead their people," he said.
The general wants the Iraqi government to emulate the Sunni sheikhs of Al Anbar province. A year ago, the outlook in the province was bleak, he said. But tribal leaders and sheikhs saw the carnage that al Qaeda in Iraq was inflicting on the country and they joined with coalition forces and Iraqi security forces to drive the terrorists from the region.
"The example has been set in al Anbar by Sunni sheikhs who last year were fighting against us and their own government," Pace said. "It's a great example for the central government in Iraq to pull people together."
The enemy in the war on terror is a bloodthirsty one with a 100-year plan. The general said that coalition forces found an al Qaeda torture chamber in Diyala province and freed 41 Iraqis.
"We are up against a very ruthless enemy and this nation is going to have to defend itself for as long as it takes," he said.
Pace said he sees the enemy increasing attacks over the next few months as Americans debate the war and the surge. In part, they will increase attacks to affect the debate inside the United States. Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and Army Gen. David Petraeus, Multinational Force Iraq commander, will issue an assessment in September as to the way forward.
"We will see the enemy in July and August try to increase our casualties," Pace said. "That said, there has been progress."
Planning goes forward across the spectrum for future operations in Iraq.
"You would expect us to be looking forward and planning ways to ramp up or ramp down depending on the situation on the ground," Pace said.
He said the assessment in September will inform leaders on the next steps in the country. "We're looking at an entire spectrum of 'next steps' to either reinforce success or make changes that may be necessary," he said.
The chairman said that when he visits troops, he often gets asked if the American people still support them.
"Americans do understand the sacrifices that have been made over 232 years to let us live free," Pace said. "They are reaching out in very special ways today to the men and women in uniform. I was in Charlotte, N.C., yesterday for the NASCAR race. (There were) 180,000 fans at the Lowe's Motor Speedway who were on their feet cheering and screaming for the troops that were there.
"I think America has found a special way regardless of their feelings about the war to reach out and say thank you to those serving today," Pace said.
On Memorial Day, Pace, a Vietnam combat veteran, said he has "some names in my head that I've carried for almost 40 years. They are very special to me, I think all of us who have served in combat have names like that. They remind of the sacrifice that's required for the nation to live free. They remind me of my very special responsibilities to those who are serving today to ensure as best I can, that we have as little sacrifice as possible, but as much as required to keep us free."
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