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View All Transcripts: Ask the Ambassador | Ask the State Department

Welcome to "Ask the Ambassador" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to U.S. Ambassadors around the world.

Senior Advisor and Coordinator for Iraq, Ambassador David M. Satterfield discussed the "New Way Forward in Iraq" strategy.

David M. Satterfield, Senior Advisor and Coordinator for Iraq
David M. Satterfield
Senior Adviser, Coordinator for Iraq
Biography

Event Date: 03/27/2007


Elfriede from Germany writes:

Sir! What are the main features of the new strategy to be implemented in Iraq?

Ambassador Satterfield:

The President laid out the New Way Forward for Iraq on January 10, 2007. You can see a detailed description of the new policy at http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/iraq/2007/iraq-strategy011007.pdf.

Our strategic goal in Iraq remains the same: A unified, democratic, federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror.

In part, the new plan focuses on security challenges where violence is the highest, Baghdad and Anbar. While the overarching strategic goals remain unchanged, securing the population will assume a top priority in order to set conditions for political and economic progress.

To support the new strategy the State Department has begun deploying greater resources alongside the U.S. military. The centerpiece of this effort will be our expansion of our Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) from 10 to 20, adding more than 300 new personnel.

In March, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), under the command of an Iraqi General took control of the Baghdad Security Plan operations. The purpose of this partnership is to increase the capabilities of ISF through combined operations and mentoring. Extra Coalition troops, while essential for short-term security gains, are not a permanent solution. Permanent security is up to the people and government of Iraq.

Elfriede from Germany:

Do you really expect the Iraqi forces to become strong enough to fight the terrorists? And if so, how does the United States give support for this goal?

Ambassador Satterfield:

Yes, we expect the forces to become strong enough to fight the terrorists.

The United States provides training and equipment to Iraqi Security Forces. The basic train and equip program has largely completed. However, we continue to work with the Iraqis by embedding U.S. soldiers with the Iraqi Security Forces, and pair U.S. units with Iraqi units during operations in the field.

Iraqi Security Forces are in the lead in 3 of 18 provinces (Dhi Qar, Muthanna, and Najaf), and we are working toward enabling them so that they may be in the lead in all 18 provinces.


Martin from Germany writes:

At this point, are you already able to name the steps on the way towards an independent Iraq which does not need the support of the United States?

Ambassador Satterfield:

Iraqi sovereignty was restored on June 28, 2004, and the Iraqis and the Coalition are working to help Iraq stand on its feet politically, economically, and in providing security for all Iraqis.

The Iraq government has set very clear goals, putting Iraq on a path towards self-sufficiency. They are well on their way to meeting them and we are doing everything we can to help.

In addition, the International Compact with Iraq (ICI) provides a means for the international community to help Iraq reform its main economic sectors (e.g., oil, electricity, and agriculture), as well as establish and develop the laws and institutions needed to combat corruption, assure good governance, and protect human rights.

The United States continues to provide training and equipment to Iraqi Security Forces. The basic train and equip program is largely completed but we continue to work with the Iraqi units by embedding U.S. soldiers and partnering with them in the field.

Martin from Germany:

Do you think it will be possible to leave a stable Iraq within the next two or three years?

Ambassador Satterfield:

We do not intend to leave Iraq until it is self-sufficient and secure. The timeframe depends largely on the Iraqis, themselves. The government of Iraq has outlined a path towards self-sufficiency and we are doing everything we can to help them meet their goals.

Martin from Germany:

What do you consider to be the most important thing to be done in Iraq at the moment?

Ambassador Satterfield:

Securing Iraq's populations to set the stage for economic and political progress is the focus in Iraq at the moment. "Operation Impose the Law" (also called the Baghdad Security Plan) is intended to improve security in the Baghdad area and provide a basis for economic reconstruction and stability. In addition to Baghdad itself, we are and the Iraqis have focused extra resources on dangerous areas surrounding Baghdad and in Anbar province.

Martin from Germany:

Do you think there is a possibility of establishing "Special Economic Zones" or special trade zones, similar to what exists in China, except with heightened security? This would jump start business.

Ambassador Satterfield:

This would be an Iraqi decision. However, Iraqi-owned businesses are already operating throughout the county. As you might expect, each business' viability depends on many factors, not just security: capable management and staff, quality inputs, sufficient operating resources, etc.

Foreign investors continue to demonstrate interest in Iraq, and foreign investment is growing. Additionally, the Government of Iraq is in the process of establishing regulations under the country's recently passed Investment Law that will clearly explain the terms for investing and doing business in Iraq.

Throughout Iraq, the U.S. Government provides technical assistance to governmental and private entities for business development and microfinancing, among other economic support. We are also focusing increased economic assistance to specific areas of Iraq as part of President Bush's "New Way Forward" strategy.

The Iraqi government is committed to improving economic conditions and fostering economic growth throughout the country.


C.D. from Washington, DC writes:

The meetings you've been involved in have been billed as meetings of "neighbors," so why are we there?

Ambassador Satterfield:

The recent Neighbors Conference involved regional states and also invited representatives from the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as representatives from the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the United Nations. Upcoming conferences will also invite representatives from the G8 industrialized nations and perhaps others as well. The international community has a vested interest in a unified, democratic Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror.


Bill from Michigan writes:

How do Iraqis get their information and formulate their opinions? How does our military work to get the Iraqi public support?

Ambassador Satterfield:

Since 2003, Iraq's domestic mass media has flourished, and Iraqis have access to international media such as satellite TV and the Internet. Iraqis also listen to radio in their cars, and those wish to read newspapers have hundreds to choose from. Iraqis generally get their news from television, just like in most other countries.

In addition, soldiers trained in civil-military affairs are stationed throughout Iraq where our military is in contact with the Iraqi people. These soldiers to help with civic projects and other kinds of community support to build good relations between U.S. military units and the communities in which they operate.

The best way our military tries to get support from the Iraqi people is by helping Iraqi Security Forces provide security.


Tammy in Maine writes:

Why should the United States give translators a hard time coming into the United States when they have helped our American troops stationed in Iraq? The translators saved our soldiers' lives and or have kept them safe by translating Arabic or Kurdish to English. These translators are in danger of their lives. Why can't our American government return the favor to help the ones who helped us?

Ambassador Satterfield:

We recognize the sacrifices that Iraqi translators have made to help U.S. forces in Iraq, and we recognize the threats they are sometimes under. We would refer you to the Department of Defense to learn more about their program to bring translators for the U.S. military to the United States. The State Department is taking steps to accelerate the admissions of Iraqi refugees (which would include translators who qualify as refugees) to the United States. For more information, we refer you Assistant Secretary Ellen Sauerbrey's testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 26, 2007.


Eric from Massachusetts writes:

It is my understanding that the State Department plans to establish (if it hasn't done so already) a large Embassy in Baghdad for coordinating its various activities and programs in Iraq. Given your experience as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad how has the size of the Embassy impeded progress and efforts of the U.S. government in Iraq? I would imagine that with so much staff and personnel assigned to a single Embassy there is a lot of internal bureaucracy, no? Furthermore, doesn't a large Embassy suggest that the U.S. has somewhat imperial interests in Iraq? I am just a concerned U.S. citizen (both for the U.S. and Iraq) and would like to see that the financial, security, and political resources which are spent on Iraq are done so effectively.

Ambassador Satterfield:

Your question is very fair. A large, cumbersome bureaucracy is the last thing we need to manage the difficult issues affecting our relationship with Iraq. But speaking from my experience, I can assure you that we closely monitor the size and functions of every office in the mission and actively question every request for additional employees.

We do our very best to ensure that our mission does not have any superfluous staffing. The Embassy has denied requests for new offices to open when there was not sufficient justification for their presence.

We expect staff requirements to drop in coming months as other programs come to the end of their mandates. To the maximum extent possible, we have located Embassy support functions outside Iraq, including travel, payroll and personnel services. While the Embassy staff is large, it is also very productive, effective and tightly focused on our mission in Iraq.


Dan from Sweden writes:

How do you intend to support and protect your Foreign Service officers when the military leaves Iraq?

Ambassador Satterfield:

American Diplomatic Missions all over the world are on the front lines of the Global War on Terrorism. To protect our diplomatic and consular posts everywhere, we rely on the outstanding professionals in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and on the United States Marines.

Diplomatic Security protects our Embassy and employees in Baghdad now, as well as the employees of Regional Embassy offices in Hillah, Basra and Erbil. Obviously they don't have all the resources of the U.S. military, but they have proven their ability to protect their colleagues abroad. We are proud to serve under their protection.

When the time comes for the military to depart Iraq, the Embassy will be continue to be protected by Diplomatic Security, the Marines and Iraqi Security Forces.


Lajiri from Florida writes:

Sir: Without a security framework in place the other three tracks of operation seem to be sitting in the water. So my question is, do we have concrete (although flexible) goals as far as security is concerned? I understand that zero attacks is a dream at this point and so I wonder what the threshold actually is if any. Also, with the Iraqi Security Forces progressing in capabilities could it be possible to hand over full control of the other areas in Iraq and have our troops devoted to security within the capital? I understand these may be more defense related questions, but I assume the Department of State is working closely with the Department of Defense in these "lines of operation" in order to succeed, so I would expect unified answers to the questions.

Ambassador Satterfield:

Together with the Iraqi government, we have set clear goals for transferring security responsibility to the Iraqi Security Forces.

Iraqi Security Forces are already have complete control of 3 of its 18 provinces, and we have expedited the process of transferring responsibility to Iraq for the remaining 15. In February, Prime Minister Maliki identified an Iraqi Commanding General to lead operations in the capital city. At the beginning of March, Iraqi Security Forces took control of the Baghdad Security Plan.

Much of the new troop surge will be in Iraq's capital, Baghdad. However, it will take several more months to deploy all of the additional Iraqi and Coalition forces required to fully implement the security track of the President's "New Way Forward" strategy. Other new forces will be dedicated to Anbar. We have already seen some positive effects in Baghdad and Anbar but we will first see the plan's full effects over the course of coming months.

Lajiri from Florida:

On the diplomatic front, why don't I see closer cooperation with our allies in the region (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, etc.)? It seems to me they would be much less hesitant to engage in a diplomatic front than in a military one, so why aren't we bringing them on board? Wouldn't this also help diffuse some of the Iranian influence that has taken afoot due to the existing power vacuum?

Ambassador Satterfield:

The recent Neighbors Conference involved regional states in a diplomatic outreach effort, and also included representatives from the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as representatives from the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the United Nations. Upcoming conferences will also invite representatives from the G8 industrialized nations and perhaps others as well.

We have also worked the Iraqis and many other nations to establish the International Compact with Iraq. The Compact is an international partnership to help Iraq reform its main economic sectors (e.g., oil, electricity, and agriculture), as well as establish and develop the laws and institutions needed to combat corruption, assure good governance, and protect human rights. Working together with the UN, Iraq has enlisted the support of its neighbors and more than 70 other nations to achieve the Compact's goals.

The international community has a vested interest in a unified, democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror.


Lieselotte from Germany writes:

Ambassador Satterfield! Does the New Strategy "A way forward in Iraq" include the realistic hope to make possible a stable and independent Iraq which does not need the help of the United States and its allies, and if so, how long do you think this development will last?

Ambassador Satterfield:

Iraqi sovereignty was restored on June 28, 2004. The Iraqis and the Coalition are working to help Iraq stand on its feet politically, economically, and in providing security for all Iraqis. There are clear indicators that the Iraqis have set for themselves and that they are trying to meet. We are doing everything we can to help them meet those indicators.

Security is the overarching issue in Iraq at the moment. "Operation Impose the Law" (also called the Baghdad Security Plan) is intended to improve security in the Baghdad area and provide a basis for economic reconstruction and stability. We continue to work with the Iraqis in unit training with embedded military and police teams. We do not intend to leave until the job is done or the Iraqis ask us to leave.


Martin from Germany writes:

Do you think that sending Ambassador Crocker to the U.S. mission in Iraq has got something to do with implementing the new strategy President Bush pursues? Do you think he is going to stress any new aspects of U.S. foreign policy with regard to supporting a free and stable Iraq?

Ambassador Satterfield:

Ambassador Ryan Crocker is one of the United States' most experienced diplomats. He has over 30 years of diplomatic experience, much of it in Iraq or working on Iraq affairs. He was confirmed by the Senate as Ambassador to Iraq on March 6, 2007. The Ambassador to Iraq (as in all countries where we have ambassadors) is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.


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