By Sgt. Sara Moore, USA
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 11, 2008 - The United States must maintain its resolve to win the war against terrorism and strengthen the Iraqi government, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said in a recent interview. "We have to stay with this; this is hard," Ryan C. Crocker said in a Jan. 9 interview with Soldiers Radio and Television in Baghdad. "There are going to be more bad days, but increasingly, we're seeing good days as well. The consequences of not succeeding in Iraq for the stability of the region, for the health of the international economy, and for America's own security, are very grave indeed."
The coalition in Iraq is starting 2008 in a much better position than it started 2007, due to improvements in security and economic and political developments, Crocker said. The security improvements have helped to clear up the situation in Iraq and more clearly define the coalition's goals for the next year, he said.
The first goal for 2008 is maintaining security in Iraq, and maintaining it with an increasingly Iraqi force, Crocker said. This means the coalition needs to place more emphasis on developing Iraqi security forces, so they can take over more responsibility, he said.
A second important goal for the year is providing services for the Iraqi people, Crocker noted. "The Iraqi people need to feel a difference in their lives," he said. "Now that violence is down, they need to see that the hours of electricity increase; they need to see that they're getting water; they need to see schools reopened; they need to see job opportunities."
Tied into the need for essential services is the need for political progress, Crocker said. He noted that the "bottom-up" reconciliation of 2007 has been very successful, but that it must be met with reconciliation from the central government level.
The central government has made progress, most notably on the economic front, Crocker said. While there an oil revenue distribution law has yet to be passed, the government is still distributing those revenues to the provinces, and the Iraqis have started using supplemental budget appropriations, he said. Despite these gains, the government still needs to pass key legislative initiatives, such as de-Baathification reform, he said.
Provincial reconstruction teams have been a huge success in Iraq, teaming representatives from the State Department and Defense Department and Iraqis to help Iraqis rebuild their society, Crocker said. The coalition now has 24 teams with about 800 people, both civilian and military. Each PRT has officials specifically tailored to an area's needs, he said, and "overall they've made a remarkable difference in the quality of life and the quality of governance in the provinces."
The outcome in Iraq is directly relevant to Middle East stability and U.S. security, Crocker said. He urged Americans to remember the sacrifices the men and women of the military are making as they serve in the Middle East, and to have patience with the fight against terrorism.
"Look at the improvement, take heart from that, and I hope that our citizens everywhere will display the resolve to stay the course here," he said. "We're on the right track, but we cannot prematurely declare victory."