Iraq: Progress and the Way AheadKevin J. Bergner,
Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iraq
"Ask the White House" Online Forum
March 20, 2006
"Ask the White House" is an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Kevin J. Bergner is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iraq. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.
March 20, 2006
Kevin J. Bergner
My name is Kevin Bergner, and I am a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iraq. I am pleased to join you today to discuss the progress of the past three years in Iraq and the way ahead.
Dennis, from Los Angeles California writes:
General Bergner,First and foremost, thank you for your service. I am a 20 year retired Naval Flight Engineer. My question is are we making progress on protective equipment for our troops? What do we need to do to support those efforts? Thank you for your time and please pass to your "boss" to stay the course. Professionally Yours, Dennis, Beverly Hills, CA
Dennis, thanks for your service to our country. Thanks also for your question and the shared interest we both have in providing the best possible equipment for our service members. We are clearly making progress in both developing and fielding equipment for our troops. During my tour in Iraq, I saw first-hand the life-saving results our gear provided for soldiers: eye protection that stopped shrapnel, body armor that stopped small arms fire and the armor protection on our vehicles that protected us from improvised explosive devices. As the President mentioned last week, we are also continuing an aggressive effort to further develop the equipment and counter-measures to deal with the IED threat and are constantly adapting our tactics and techniques so Soldiers and Marines have the best possible protection.
James, from New York writes:
Do you think it is encouraging that the turnout at the last Iraqi election was significantly higher than that which returned our current President to power in 2004?
James, thanks for your question. It is significant to point out that the Iraqi people have increasingly participated in each successive electoral event over the past year, with nearly 70% of eligible voters participating in the national election in December 2005. That is an increase of nearly four million compared to those who voted in the national election in January 2005.
The Iraqi people that I had the chance to meet during my recent tour in northern Iraq were deeply committed to the political process and are now hard at work to build the democratic institutions to govern their country. They vividly remember the time just three years ago when they had no voice in their government and were forbidden from even organizing meetings to voice their concerns.
Robert, from Jamestown,N.C. writes:
In the absence of any reliable reportage on Iraq from the mainstream media it was reassuring to hear Genl.Casey yesterday recite the progress on many levels .He mentioned that geographically most of the country is peaceful with minimal insurgent activity except in Baghdad.The President earlier today in Cleveland gave a comprehensive assessment and astute answers to questions from the floor. We hope the government comes together soon and the Iraqi police and military continue to grow and improve and take on more and more responsability.
Could you characterise the worst remaining issue in Baghdad and a reasonable assessment of our efforts to bring it under control as that seems militarily the last piece with the rest of the country in good shape ?
Thanks, Robert. The formation of a unity government is broadly seen as the most important issue facing the Iraqi people today. It must be able to address the concerns of all the communities in Iraq. Leaders of the major political parties are deeply engaged in discussions to organize and develop the governmental platform that will accomplish that purpose.
There are also efforts underway to enhance security in Iraq, including Baghdad. The Iraqi security forces are at the center of that effort and they are making significant progress.
Jenny, from Ohio writes:
What is the best way for us citizens here at home to support our troops in Iraq?
Jenny, first let me say thank you for your support and that of so many others. Our service members and their families are indeed making a tremendous sacrifice every day. Our soldiers receive support from groups and individual citizens while they are deployed and at home. There are also organizations who are providing support to our wounded service members and their families. The www.AmericaSupportsYou.mil web site will give you "one-stop shopping" for ways you can support the troops.
When soldiers are traveling to or from duty overseas, they are frequently stopped in the airport by strangers who simply want to express thanks for their service. A simple "thank you" means an awful lot and is probably the most personal way for our citizens to show their support.
Lucy, from Modesto, CA writes:
Thank you for serving us. I know that the media makes it appear that most people are questioning and unsupportive, but that is not true. What are some of the best examples for continuing on in Iraq when the costs appear to be so high? What are some objectives that have been reached that are leading toward your overall goal? Thank you for receiving my question.
Lucy, thanks for your question and for your support. I have seen and felt firsthand the support of the American people and I have also seen firsthand the courage and commitment of the Iraqi people in the face of brutal terrorist attacks.
We are making progress in helping the Iraqi people win the struggle for their freedom. We are helping them overcome terrorists who reject democracy, reject peace, and want to impose their own dictatorial rule on the Iraqi people. We seek to help the Iraqis build a stable, peaceful, prosperous country that poses no threat to its neighbor, is a close partner in the Global War on Terror, and a constructive member of the international community. A thriving, democratic Iraq, will also serve as a beacon to others in the region. Achievement of these objectives will be a major strategic advance for the United States, for Iraq, and for our friends and allies.
And there has been progress toward this objective. The President's National Strategy for Victory in Iraq has three tracks - Political, Security, and Economic. All three tracks are progressing. Some of the signs of progress include:
Political: Iraq has elected and is now forming a democratically elected government, based on their constitution.
Security: An all-volunteer Iraqi Security Force is increasingly taking responsibility for security.
Economic: Iraq's economy is showing signs of recovering after 30 years of dictatorship. In 2005, the economy grew an estimated 2.6 % in real terms, and the IMF estimates it will grow by more than 10% in 2006.
Elbert, from Las Vegas, NV writes:
General Bergner; Thank you for your service. We're proud of our military I understand Zarqawi is trying to disrupt the building of Iraqi national unity and their government; but, are the average Iraqi citizens placing blame for the violence where it belongs on the terrorists? And, can the Iraqi Forces successfully reduce the level of violence? From A Proud Vietnam Veteran
Elbert, thanks for your service as a proud Vietnam veteran. During my service in northern Iraq last year, I saw the Iraqi people increasingly take steps to align themselves with their security forces and take a stand against the terrorists. The Iraqi people provided more tips about those who were planning terrorist attacks and they began working more closely with their own security forces. For their part, the Iraqi Security Forces demonstrated their capability to be an effective counter-insurgency force and are now expanding their responsibilities.
Angel, from Kentucky writes:
I was wondering does the President have any plans of with drawing our troops from Iraq anytime in the near future. It seems like the war is going to last forever.
Angel, our strategy is making progress in establishing the conditions for victory. Although we are confident of our progress, we do not put a date on when each stage of success will be achieved. Lack of a timetable does not mean that our posture in Iraq is static.
We are continually adjusting our posture as conditions change and Iraqi capabilities increase. For example, following the Iraqi elections in December 2005, the number of Brigades on the ground was changed from 17 to the 15 Brigades we have today. As Iraqi forces increase their capability and the political, economic and security conditions improve, the commanders on the ground will continue to look at what adjustments might be appropriate. In some cases, that may also involve increasing the force to deal with increased security requirements associated with an election or religious commemoration.
Marilyn, from Taylor, AR, Lafayette Co writes:
Has the defense department ever considered the use of robots, as asubstitute for machinery and humans, in counteracting the use of roadside bombs and bombs placed in buildings? Could so simple a solution work?
Marilyn, your question is a good one. We actually do use robotic devices to limit the risk of roadside bombs to our forces and we are continuously looking at new innovations to further reduce the risks to our service members.
I found some pictures of several robots being tested and used to detect explosive devices, here are the links to the images:
Gordon, from Chicago writes:
Thank you for fielding my question. Is there any truth to the belief that a civil war has begun to unfold? God bless the troops
The political leaders in Iraq have maintained a united and strong position in dealing with the sectarian violence. As General Casey stated this weekend, he doesn't believe that civil war is imminent or inevitable.
Joanna, from Michigan writes:
Hello We are very glad that the Coalition forces have accomplished so much in merely three years. Yet we hear mostly negative reporting about the war--and it is frustrating, because we KNOW that much is being accomplished there for the dear Iraqis. What way could we hear, maybe even day by day, about the progress that is going on? We often think about and pray for our troops and for success in this venture
Joanna, thanks for your question, for your prayers and your support. There are a number of sources of information that can be accessed to provide further information about events in Iraq. A good source to learn more about our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq can be found on the White House web site. The Department of State also has a very comprehensive information source at their web site www.state.gov.
The Department of Defense has a number of sites, and you can even go so far as to read the newspapers being produced by our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines for their fellow service members.
Department of Defense web sites: www.defenselink.mil, www.centcom.mil and http://www.mnf-iraq.com/
Military Newspapers: This week in Iraq, The Scimitar, The Eagle & The Crescent, and The Anaconda Times
Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Director Gen. Bergner: With so many fronts and so many issues going on in Irag and the newspapers front page usually does not headline what one would call PROGRESS. So the question is General, what would you say are the 3 area's that we have made the most PROGRESS in? Thank You
Cliff, as you point out, there are many points of progress in Iraq. I think the most important ones that I observed during my assignment in Iraq are the increasing popular support of the Iraqi people for their security forces in the fight against the terrorists, the increasing capability of the Iraqi Security Forces and the broad political effort the Iraqi people are making to achieve a democratic government in Iraq.
Kevin J. Bergner
Thank you for the chance to talk with you and thank you for the support you have shown me and thousands of other service members serving our country today.