Interview: Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV on Iraq and the Alleged Revenge Killings of GIs

Q: I am thinking of the jihad neighborhood violence on Sunday when Shiite militia were rampaging through that district killing Sunnis. It took the involvement of American troops to bring that area under control. Does that suggest that Iraqi forces are not yet well trained enough or capable of providing security to their own people?

A: Well, the reporting in that whole area was a little off, as we found out once we got there, you know there were reports of forty or so that were murdered, we did find about fourteen when we were able to get on the scene there. The Iraqi security forces are getting better each day. We see things like this past week where they foiled two kidnapping attempts inside of Baghdad, where they're out locating and stopping vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. They're making steady progress themselves, they clearly want to do better themselves too in a place like jihad, they don't want to see that happen, and I think that's why you see they'll continually reassess -- why did it happen there, what didn't go well, and what can we do better next time.

Q: [U.S.] Ambassador [to Iraq Zalmay] Khalilzad said the next six months are crucial for the future of Iraq, and [Iraq] Foreign Minister [Hoshyar] Zebari said he wanted to see security restored by the end of the year. What is your assessment from a military point of view? How long can this violent standoff continue?

A: Well the ambassador, we all totally concur with. His assessment -- that we have 'til Christmas time frame, 'til the December time frame to make a difference -- is exactly right. The people of Baghdad have very high expectations. They've seen the installation of a new government, they've seen the prime minister talk about a national reconciliation and dialogue plan, they hear a lot of talk from the politicians about how they're going to unify this country together, they've heard about basic services are going to be restored, there's a lot that needs to be delivered to them that's going to have to happen over these next six or eight months so the people themselves don't become disillusioned. But they themselves are a part of the solution. The military forces here can only set the conditions for peace. We cannot achieve peace. It's going to be the Iraqi people themselves are going to have to achieve this peace.

Q: As you say, it is not really a military problem it is a political problem to be solved by political means. What effect is the violence going to have on that attempt to reach a political settlement?

A: Well, that's exactly what these anti-Iraqi elements would want us to do. Every chance they get, they're gonna do some more bombings, they're gonna do some more mass murders. If you look what happens, 87 percent of the casualties that occur in this country every week are innocent civilians. They're not coalition forces and Iraqi security forces. I mean, clearly these anti-Iraqi forces are focused on producing civilian casualties and that's who we're targeting, that's who we're going after. They in fact are operating outside of the law, and that's exactly who we're going to target and focus our efforts on. And we're gonna keep getting at this security. We're gonna continue making adjustments and refinements.

And we're going to make that a primary focus of ours -- to bring greater security to the Baghdad area.

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