By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
May 31, 2007 – While all eyes are focused on the surge of U.S. troops into Baghdad, a top military commander stressed today that military force alone cannot solve the problems of the country. "While security is important and creating stability for the Iraqi people remains paramount, success cannot be achieved without those diplomatic, political and economic endeavors that also make progress," said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq. "Therefore, it must be a combination of all of those for us to be successful."
Reconciliation is key to peace in the country. The general estimated that roughly 80 percent of the groups now working against the government can be brought into the political process.
"We believe a large majority of groups within Iraq are reconcilable and are now interested in engaging with us, but more importantly, they want to engage and become a part of the government of Iraq," he said during a Pentagon teleconference today.
The success the coalition and the Iraqi government have had in Iraq's Anbar province is encouraging to U.S. officials, Odierno said. Tribal leaders and sheikhs grew weary of al Qaeda violence and threw their lots in with the government and coalition.
"We now see opportunities for further engagement across Iraq with other tribes and entities, to include mainstream Sunni and Shiia insurgents," Odierno said.
Coalition commanders at all levels are working with local Iraqi leaders. "We are attempting to create confidence-building measures among these various groups, where they will ultimately reach out to the government of Iraq, who is working hard to establish a reconciliation strategy," he said.
Some groups will not listen to reason, and those extremists must be killed or captured, Odierno said. Al Qaeda in Iraq is one of those groups. "I believe ... very few of al Qaeda are reconcilable, but there might be a small portion," Odierno said.
The general said the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must continue to reach out to insurgent groups of all ethnic backgrounds, including illegal militias and Sunni insurgents.
"They have reached out to the tribes in al Anbar, and they are working with them in order to continue their movement towards the political process," he said. "That's what this reconciliation is about. It's about bringing these groups into the political process so we can deal with their differences in a peaceful way instead of in violent ways."
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