By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
July 29, 2008 - Iraq's interior minister thanked U.S. servicemembers and their families for their sacrifices on behalf of his country during a visit with wounded U.S. troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here today. Through an interpreter, Jawad al-Bulani told reporters that he wanted to convey his country's "gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices made by these great warrior-soldiers, in the freeing of the Iraqi people and in helping us in Iraq to recover from tyranny and dictatorship."
Bulani also praised U.S. servicemembers' families, noting their sacrifices are equally important and appreciated by his nation.
The senior Iraqi official also told reporters that he'd witnessed "the level of technical and medical sophistication" that is being practiced at Walter Reed. Observations at Walter Reed will be employed "to help our own wounded and many, many victims of terrorism and violence in Iraq," Bulani said.
"We believe that we need facilities similar to this in Iraq, and we need to learn from not only the medical, but also the administrative and other systems that are in place here to help victims of war and violence," the Iraqi minister added.
Bulani then took a reporter's question about the progress of the national police, which fall under his portfolio as interior minister. The Iraqi National Police have performed their duties with professionalism and increased levels of performance during a recent series of anti-insurgent operations conducted in Baghdad, Mosul and other cities throughout the country, Bulani said. And recent reforms implemented across the Iraqi National Police force have led to better officer vetting, training and replacement systems, he added.
The National Police soon will institute "a joint training program that will foster the culture of professionalism" throughout the ranks, Bulani said.
Security has greatly improved in Iraq in recent months, Bulani said.
He acknowledged that challenges remain. "However, I can tell you that we are taking all that is necessary to be ready and to step up and to fulfill our requirements, play our role in this transitional time," he said.
More security responsibilities will be transferred from coalition to Iraqi forces, he predicted, as Iraqi forces continue to gain in capability.
When asked about media speculation on possible windows of time for possible phased withdrawals of U.S. forces from Iraq, Bulani commented that his government is engaged in ongoing discussions involving many issues that "will depend on all kinds of considerations that will come into play."