Months ahead critical to Iraqi security

Published 10:26 am Monday, September 25, 2006

By By Jo Bonner
Recently, I sat down with a Press-Register reporter for an interview on a wide-range of topics that have been in the news lately. When the questions turned to Iraq, it reminded me of the questions I have received from many of you following my most recent trip to Iraq last month.
News reports continue to portray that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war-where chaos and terror reign. Many parts of the country are still very dangerous, but from what I witnessed, I do not believe Iraq is in a civil war.
Our efforts in Iraq have been painful but absolutely necessary. Saddam Hussein's regime represented a real threat to the region and the world, and that regime and that threat have been forever eliminated. For that, our country and particularly our military should be justifiably proud.
It is clear the people of Iraq are trying mightily to establish the institutions that underpin a successful democracy. Voter turnout for the last election is ample proof the Iraqi people crave democracy.
Obviously, the difficult security situation there makes this undertaking daunting. The Iraqi people with the continued support of our military must make significant inroads toward stabilizing their country before democracy can grow.
I have stated that the next half year will be particularly important to events in Iraq. This is not to infer a timetable but to recognize the emerging reality there. As the security of additional regions of the country is turned over to Iraqi forces, the Iraqis are assuming greater control of their destiny.
It is critical that we do not pull our troops out of Iraq before it is able to defend itself. If we leave prematurely, we leave Iraq in the hands of our worst enemies. These groups would be left with a sanctuary to recruit and train terrorists-in the heart of the Middle East-with vast oil resources at their disposal to fund their terrorist ambitions.
It is important to note that the transition to Iraqi civilian control is progressing. Recently, a key province in southern Iraq was transferred to full Iraqi civilian control, and other transitions are expected later this year.
Earlier this summer, the president announced that he and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki have agreed to establish a joint committee to achieve Iraqi self-reliance. This new partnership will seek to ensure the smoothest and most effective transfer of security responsibility.
In the months ahead, Iraq's success as a democratic nation will depend to a large degree on its ability to provide security. Our commitment to train and equip Iraqi forces for this task endures, but we alone cannot deliver an outcome certain.
Our men and women in uniform and their civilian support continue to help make the successes in Iraq possible. They, along with Coalition forces, have made tremendous sacrifices in the name of a free and democratic Iraq.
In the face of a ruthless insurgency, our troops have enabled Iraq to evolve into a sovereign nation: peaceful elections were held for a transitional government and a permanent assembly; there was a peaceful handover from the interim to the transitional government; and a constitution was drafted and approved.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week, the president addressed the people of Iraq and stated:
"Nearly 12 million of you braved the car bombers and assassins last December to vote in free elections. The world saw you hold up purple ink-stained fingers, and your courage filled us with admiration.
"You've stood firm in the face of horrendous acts of terror and sectarian violence – and we will not abandon you in your struggle to build a free nation.
"America and our coalition partners will continue to stand with the democratic government you elected. We will continue to help you secure the international assistance and investment you need to create jobs and opportunity, working with the United Nations and through the International Compact with Iraq endorsed here in New York yesterday.
"We will continue to train those of you who stepped forward to fight the enemies of freedom. We will not yield the future of your country to terrorists and extremists. In return, your leaders must rise to the challenges your country is facing, and make difficult choices to bring security and prosperity.
"Working together, we will help your democracy succeed, so it can become a beacon of hope for millions in the Muslim world."
At the end of the day, it is the Iraqi people who will determine their end state. I am proud of our nation and our military for removing the cancer of Saddam Hussein and giving the Iraqis the opportunity for freedom and self-determination.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox