By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
April 27, 2009 - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton assured Iraqi leaders during a visit to Baghdad yesterday that as the United States draws down its troops in Iraq, it won't draw down its commitment to Iraq's government and people. Clinton also joined President Barack Obama in condemning the recent spike in violence she said is aimed at derailing progress being made.
The secretary met yesterday with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Iraqi citizens to get their perspectives on Iraq's political, security and economic progress. Newly confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill also participated in the discussions.
"It is encouraging to both see and hear about the progress that is being made in Iraq," Clinton said during a joint news conference with Zebari. "At every stop, I have emphasized President Obama's message that our strategy working with you may be in a new phase, but we pledge our full and continuing commitment to Iraq and the Iraqi people."
As the United States draws down militarily in Iraq, it will deepen its civilian cooperation in accordance with the strategic framework agreement, Clinton said. "We will work on development and diplomatic initiatives and a regional agenda that includes border security and refugees," she explained.
The United States is committed to ensuring Iraq is sovereign, stable, self-reliant and fully integrated into the region, Clinton said.
Toward that end, the U.S. military is working toward an orderly transition of responsibility to the Iraqi security forces. "We continue to help train and equip these forces so they will take the lead in safeguarding their country," she said.
Clinton condemned recent violence she said clearly is traceable to al-Qaida remnants and other violent groups who want to disrupt progress. These attacks have "only reinforced the Iraqi people's determination to seek a better future for their country," she said.
"Their response and the response of Iraq's leaders has been united and firm," Clinton said, noting sacrifices made by Iraqis as well as Americans.
"We are proud of the progress that the Iraqi people have made," she said. "And we will stand with you as you build a future worthy of all of the children in Iraq."
Zebari called Clinton's message reassuring, particularly as Iraq and the U.S.-Iraqi relationship go through an important transition.
"There is no doubt that there are serious security and economic challenges that are facing Iraq," he said. "Therefore, we will continue to rely on the continuation of U.S. commitment and support to both the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people to enable them to face those challenges."