Gen. Pace Optimistic About Iraq Progress

The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 24, 2006; 6:51 PM

WASHINGTON -- The top American general said Tuesday he is not discouraged by what other U.S. commanders have described as disappointing progress in securing Baghdad, but he predicted no quick turnaround.

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon news conference that his optimism about Iraq's future is based on his belief that most Iraqis want peace and stability. He also said Iraqis have plenty of incentive to halt the sectarian violence that threatens to tear their country apart.

"The great incentive inside of Iraq with the Iraqi people is their own self-pride and determination that they want to stand on their own; they want to be free; they want to determine their own way ahead," Pace said.

While military commanders may not be discouraged, Republicans fighting to keep control of Congress are frustrated with the lack of progress in Baghdad so close to the Nov. 7 elections.

In a letter released Tuesday, 33 House Republicans urged Bush to send into Baghdad any proficient Iraqi units available. Five of the Republicans _ Reps. Thelma Drake of Virginia, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, Geoff Davis of Kentucky, Rob Simmons of Connecticut and John Doolittle of California _ are in tight political races.

"It is crucial that both the U.S. and Iraqi governments recognize that as the battle in Iraq has intensified, so has the need to send Iraqi battalions into the heart of battle," the lawmakers wrote. "Now is exactly the time to do so."

Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the fledging government are starting to take steps aimed at quelling the rising sectarian violence and moving Iraq toward prosperity and peace.

"I think they've got to do more and they've got to do it faster," Hadley said in a radio interview at the White House. "And I think if you talked to Prime Minister (Nouri) al-Maliki he would say, to you, the same thing."

Asked if the U.S. is winning in Iraq, Pace responded in terms of the broader war on terrorism that includes Afghanistan and efforts elsewhere in the world to defeat al-Qaida and other terrorist networks.

"Winning in this war on terrorism is having security in the countries we're trying to help that allows for those governments to function and for their people to function," he said.

In Baghdad, U.S. officials said Iraqi government leaders have agreed to develop a timeline by the end of the year for progress in stabilizing Iraq and reducing violence that has killed 300 Iraqi troops during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan alone.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander who appeared at a news conference with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, said Iraqi forces should be able to take control of security in the next 12 to 18 months with minimal American support.

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