Irak — Iraqis Make Security Progress as War Winds Down

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2010 — The past week was a very good one for secu­ri­ty progress in Iraq, with two al-Qai­da lead­ers being killed in an Iraqi-led oper­a­tion, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said today.
And Iraqi forces fol­lowed up their suc­cess­es by arrest­ing anoth­er senior al-Qai­da leader in north­ern Iraq, Mor­rell not­ed at a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence. “This is not a good time … to be a leader of al-Qai­da in Iraq,” Mor­rell said. “There’s not a lot of longevi­ty in those jobs.”

Although U.S. forces part­nered with Iraqi forces for the oper­a­tions, Mor­rell stressed, Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces found and exploit­ed the intel­li­gence that made them pos­si­ble and were in the lead of both oper­a­tions.

“We have capa­bil­i­ties that we can bring to bear that they have not yet devel­oped ful­ly,” he said. “It was a great joint mis­sion that brought down three peo­ple who were respon­si­ble for the deaths of scores and scores of inno­cent Iraqis, not to men­tion U.S. and coali­tion forces.”

As America’s involve­ment in Iraq draws to an end – U.S. com­bat units will be out of the coun­try by the end of August – the Unit­ed States is deter­mined not to make the same mis­takes made in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Mor­rell said.

In August, Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom ends and Oper­a­tion New Dawn begins, with U.S. forces in “advise and assist” roles.

All U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing for fis­cal 2010 calls for $1 bil­lion for Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces. That mon­ey would go to expe­dite build­ing capa­bil­i­ties in Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces. The cur­rent Iraqi bud­get­ing process prob­a­bly does­n’t have the means to exe­cute spend­ing on the things they need to invest in as quick­ly as the Unit­ed States can do it by spend­ing this mon­ey, Mor­rell explained.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates ful­ly sup­ports this spend­ing, Mor­rell told reporters.

“I think he is very leery of repeat­ing the final scene in ‘Char­lie Wilson’s War,’ ” he said, refer­ring to a movie that depict­ed the unsuc­cess­ful efforts of a Texas con­gress­man to get his col­leagues to invest a few mil­lion dol­lars in Afghanistan after Con­gress invest­ed bil­lions in para­mil­i­tary forces that drove the Sovi­et Union out of the coun­try.

“It was a case of us being pen­ny wise and pound fool­ish,” Mor­rell said. “And the sec­re­tary believes we’ve been pay­ing the price ever since. We turned our backs on Afghanistan. We turned our backs on Pak­istan. Al-Qai­da … and oth­er ter­ror­ists were able to take root there, and obvi­ous­ly we were struck on 9/11.”

The Unit­ed States has lost more than 4,400 ser­vice­mem­bers in Iraq, with more than 32,000 oth­ers wound­ed. Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers spent hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars in the coun­try. “[Gates] believes that we need to spend the mon­ey nec­es­sary to fin­ish this job — to make sure our draw­down is suc­cess­ful and the Iraqis have the capa­bil­i­ties they need to assume respon­si­bil­i­ty for more and more of the secu­ri­ty com­po­nent,” Mor­rell said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)