Prepared Statement for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: I thank you for the opportunity to come and brief you today on the Defense Department's role in the upcoming transition to Iraqi sovereignty. I am heartened by the numerous statements from members of this Committee recognizing the importance of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the ongoing reconstruction mission in Iraq to our nation's security. Such statements send a strong message of America's resolve to those who oppose our efforts to help the Iraqi people rehabilitate their nation after 35 years of unimaginable tyranny under Saddam Hussein.
I would also like to thank the members of this Committee for their continued support to the men and women of our Armed Forces. Our prayers are with all our people currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether members of Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard units, these heroes embody the best ideals of our nation--serving so that others may be free--and we thank them all for the sacrifices they make.
I would also like to pay tribute to the hard work and sacrifices of all the civilians and Foreign Service officers in the Coalition Provisional Authority and various NGOs. Their tireless efforts and heroism have been vital to our mission in Iraq, and they have been as fine a group of ambassadors for this nation as we have ever sent abroad.
Finally, we also owe a sincere debt of gratitude as well to the roughly 25,000 men and women from our Coalition partners, who are serving the cause of freedom in Iraq. This coalition is neither "illegitimate" nor "window dressing." Thirty-four of our closest friends have troops that are bravely fighting alongside us in Iraq, spearheaded by the two multinational divisions led by the British and the Poles. British, Italians, Bulgarians, Thais, Poles, Danes, Estonians, Ukrainians, and Spanish have been killed while trying to advance freedom and democracy in Iraq. Just recently, one of our smallest allies, El Salvador, has been singled out for the valor of its troops in countering the recent violence in Iraq. Most significantly, the largest partner of this Coalition is the Iraqis themselves, tens of thousands of whom are already fighting for a new Iraq. The number of Iraqi Security Forces may exaggerate their capability at this time, but not their determination to rebuild their country, as more than 300 Iraqi Security Forces have been killed in action, and close to 700 wounded.
The horrible abuses at Abu Ghraib prison have been, as Secretary Rumsfeld characterized it, a body blow for all of us. These actions are a betrayal of what thousands of Americans have risked their lives to achieve in Iraq. But these actions do not represent America, nor do they represent American values. We will uncover the truth. We will punish the guilty. And we will act to prevent such abuses from recurring in the future. The Iraqi people will see that a free democratic system functions and operates transparently. Americans are human and we make mistakes, but when we do, we work to correct them. And it was not a mistake to free the Iraqi people and the world from one of the most abusive dictators in history.
The Coalition's Strategy to Achieve Victory in Iraq: Capacity Building
We need to continue to move forward on all fronts implementing the coalition's strategy to set conditions that will ensure a free Iraq that is stable and at peace with its neighbors. Our strategy involves three interdependent lines of operations to build indigenous Iraqi capacity and transition responsibilities from the Coalition to Iraq rapidly, but not hastily. While the lessons to be learned from the violent events of the past few weeks affect the way we pursue these three lines of operation, these are still the three key elements that will bring success in Iraq.
The first element involves building capable Iraqi security forces to achieve stability. Accordingly, we have redoubled our efforts to recruit, train, equip and, most importantly, mentor Iraqi security forces--Police, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, Army, Border Police, and the Facilities Protection Service. …