Casey Says Results in Iraq Won't Be Fast

The Associated Press
Monday, January 15, 2007; 10:10 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- There are no guarantees of overall success or quick results in the new U.S.-Iraqi security drive in Baghdad, the U.S. commander in Iraq said Monday.

Gen. George Casey told reporters he did not expect significant results until the summer and fall, for the first time putting a timeframe around the plan announced Wednesday by President Bush.

"As with any plan, there are no guarantees of success, and it's not going to happen overnight but with sustained political support and the concentrated efforts on all sides I believe that this plan can work," Casey said at a news conference.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who joined Casey at the podium, declared there were no deadlines being imposed on the Iraqis to take action against gunmen, but the pressure was a perception that existed because of the Shiite-dominated government's failure in the past to weed out Shiite militia fighters.

"The statements that have been made about the urgency for action reflects this doubt or concern that exists in many places about whether the Iraqis or the Iraqi leadership will decide to do what's necessary," Khalilzad said.

"I've discussed these issues with the prime minister and he's said they need to move, not because of what we say or what's said in Washington, but he has said 'we have to move to secure the capital city because of Iraqi interests,'" the U.S. envoy said.

Their responses simply mirrored what other U.S. officials have said in defense of Bush's plan against a wave of criticism given the failure of two previous drives to secure the capital.

Casey and Khalilzad _ both set to leave their jobs soon _ showed little emotion and did not offer much new information in the face of probing questions from reporters.

Asked how things would be different this time, Casey, who has expressed reservations about increasing U.S. troop strength in Iraq, said he couldn't offer any guarantees.

"But I do believe that with continued political reinforcement and political support, this plan can go forward," he said. "And it's an opportunity for the Iraqi people to get on board and support their security forces to move this whole country forward."

Casey dismissed reports about disagreements between Iraqi and U.S. officials over the command structure of the operation to curb sectarian violence in Baghdad, although Iraqi officials said many hotly disputed issues were unresolved.

"We have been here before ... but what's different is a stronger level of political commitment from the government and a better organization on the Iraqi side to help their own plan succeed. And I will tell you yes, there are still difficulties with the Iraqi security forces. That has been a challenge," said Casey, who will cede command of U.S. forces to Gen. David Petraeus.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Associated Press