By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 17, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with his Iraqi counterpart at the Pentagon here today to discuss mutual interests and concerns regarding stability in Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said. Gates lauded Defense Minister Abd al-Qadir al-Mufriji for his forces' efforts and success in providing security for the Jan. 31 provincial elections. He also commended the Iraqi people for the positive outcome and results for the elections overall, Air Force Lt. Col. Pat Ryder said.
The future of Iraq is through the ballot, not the bullet, al-Mufriji said, noting that the election process gives the Iraqi people a reason to believe in their country's future, Ryder said.
During the meeting, the defense leaders expressed mutual appreciation for the sacrifices made by troops from both countries. Both agreed that future challenges are approaching Iraq, and a long-term, bilateral relationship between the two countries is necessary for continued stability there, Ryder said.