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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 28, 2006

Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Steve Hadley
Reval Hotel Latvija
Riga, Latvia

5:30 P.M. (Local)

MR. HADLEY: I'm going to try and just give you a little recap of the day, look forward a little bit tonight to the NATO working dinner tonight. Started the day, of course, in Estonia, the President being the first sitting President to visit Estonia. It was an interesting day because this is a very small country that has made a lot of right decisions, in terms of its politics, in terms of its international relations, in terms of its economy. These were not easy decisions, but the people of Estonia are reaping the rewards. They privatized their economy, they opened to foreign investment, they opened to the power of trade, and their economy is doing very well, returning almost double-digit growth.

So it's a heartening experience for those nations making a transition from conditions of tyranny to conditions of freedom, that there are some models there and there are some examples of what is possible, in, in terms of historical events, a fairly short period of time.

They have also, as part of their -- that transition and making right decisions, they have made some right decisions with respect to their military -- their military, while small, nonetheless, they are increasing defense spending, adapting to the capabilities required for the challenges of the 21st century. And in that respect, they are an example for the rest of Europe of the willingness to put resources into the defense mission and to adapt to the defense requirements and capabilities that are needed for the 21st century.

The President then went on to Latvia. Again, it's very interesting, Estonia and Latvia, two of the three "captive nations." They kept the flame of freedom alive within their countries for almost 60 years, and now with over 10 years enjoying the benefits of freedom and liberty, they still have a palpable understanding of what freedom means and they have been willing to help others find their freedom. And they -- it was interesting how the leaders in both countries have put that forward to us as a contribution they feel morally obligated to make. Having found and had their freedom restored themselves, they talked very passionately about their obligation to help others find their freedom.

They are working with a number of Europe's emerging and struggling democracies. They are working actively with Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova. They're working with Belarus. We met -- the President was introduced in Estonia to a number of individuals who have been involved in democracy promotion efforts, and the leaders of the country are clearly very proud of their work. And these are also countries who are punching above their weight in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Though they have very small military forces, they have something like almost 10 percent deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are taking on real military missions. They are exposed -- they are in parts of Afghanistan, for example, where they are taking casualties. And they are actually talking about increasing the number of forces that they are putting into those two places -- again, an indication of this both passion for and feeling an obligation to help others find their freedom.

They are providing leadership in European institutions, despite their small size. And of course, one of the reasons it's so important to have this NATO summit here in the Baltics is to acknowledge their contribution. They feel very strongly about the importance of retaining the transatlantic link between Europe and the United States for meeting the challenges of the 21st century, and of course, NATO is the primary institution for doing that.

And I must say, as we sat there listening to these, at one point, Secretary Rice leaned over and passed me a note saying, thank God both Republican and Democratic administrations have been supporters of NATO enlargement, because look at the fruits of that effort over the last decade.

We went and had a meeting with -- the President had a meeting with Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Secretary General of NATO. That was to talk a little bit about the meeting coming up tonight. The focus of that meeting will be very much Afghanistan. The President and the Secretary General talked about the commitment and accomplishments that have been achieved by NATO's involvement in Afghanistan. It has been a hard decision to commit forces down there. It was the right decision, and I think the two of them talked about the importance for the mission in Afghanistan succeeding not only for the future of Afghanistan, but for success in the broader war against terror and of the importance to NATO, having taken on this mission, to succeed.

They talked about NATO transformation, what NATO is learning by its involvement in Afghanistan, the kinds of capabilities NATO is understanding that it needs in order to carry out these missions. One of the subjects of this NATO summit is a series of initiatives that the President just talked about in his speech, which are part of the process of NATO adapting its capabilities and structures to the challenges of the 21st century.

That's also going to require additional defense capabilities and probably additional defense spending. And that's one of the things that the Secretary General has been very outspoken about, and the President has been very supportive about. And one of the issues at this NATO summit is going to be highlighting the need for enhancing capabilities for these missions, and the other aspect, of course, is also enhancing the partnerships with non-NATO countries that are involved with NATO in these missions.

The two leaders talked about NATO enlargement, the continuing open door to European democracies who want to be part of NATO and are able and willing to meet NATO's requirements. And the President, of course, addressed that in his remarks tonight, and it will be a subject addressed in the meeting later tonight and in the communiqué that comes out tomorrow.

Finally, there was some discussion about the importance of NATO's mission in Iraq, and the President has an opportunity to talk a little bit about the meeting he, the President, is going to have here in the next two days with Prime Minister Maliki.

That's basically what was talked about today. The discussion this evening I think is going to focus heavily on Afghanistan, the adaptation of capabilities required to succeed in that mission. And I'd be pleased to take any questions.


Q Steve, you said the Baltic countries are punching above their weight in Afghanistan. Are some countries, like Germany, punching below their weight?

MR. HADLEY: I simply said that they are punching above their weight and they recognize the stakes and they're willing to make a commitment. And that's something for which it's wholly appropriate and that they should be acknowledged and recognized.

Q Will the President ask for some countries to do more than they're doing now, specifically?

MR. HADLEY: Well, there are a number of things that NATO has asked. As you know, there are still some additional requirements that have not been met and SACEUR has been talking about those. There's a desire to make clear that we are all in this together and that NATO countries need to be supporting each other in the NATO mission, and that the capabilities sent to Afghanistan have to be capabilities that match the requirements of military commanders to accomplish the mission on the ground.

So I think you're going to have that kind of discussion tonight.

Q Steve, can I ask about the Maliki meeting? Does the President think it's time to be more candid with Maliki than he's been before, to apply more pressure on the need for Maliki to shore up some kind of political center in Iraq that is the starting point for actually ending the violence, especially after the elections, especially with all the pressure to bring troops home? Is this the time to really put pressure on Maliki? Is that what's on his mind?

MR. HADLEY: The President has been very candid with Maliki in his discussions. I've been party to those discussions, both in person and by video. So this is a relationship of candor from the get-go. I'm sure it will continue to be such.

Secondly, I think there's a lot of discussion about pushing Maliki. Maliki is doing a lot of pushing himself. He has talked very publicly of his desire to enhance the capability of Iraqi security forces, to have Iraqi security forces take more responsibility for security in the country, and to have more control over those forces.

He's also talked very much about the importance of reconciliation, of bringing other sectors of the politics -- of the political spectrum into more active engagement and support of the government. So I think the thing that's interesting is that this is a unity government that is not -- that is, in some sense, leaning very far forward and wanting to accept responsibility for the future in Iraq. That is a very good thing. It is something that, obviously, speaks well for them. It's what the Iraqi people want, it's what the American people want, it's what this activity has been all about, to put the Iraqi government and Iraqi people in the position and posture where they can take increasing responsibility for what -- for their own future.

Q But if I can just follow on that?


Q Isn't it more important, at this stage, to deal with the produced results, rather than having desire? Of course he wants to control the security forces, the question is, can he do it? And what will the President say about the fact that he's been unable to do it and that he can't even control Baghdad, and that you've got the figure like Muqtada al-Sadr, who has, it seems, greater control over the government and over the streets in Baghdad than the head of this unity government that he champions?

MR. HADLEY: I don't think those things that you said are factually correct. There has been an effort that has been a coordinated effort between the Iraqi government and coalition forces to get greater control of the security situation in Baghdad. And as we have said very clearly and candidly, after two iterations, it has not produced adequate progress in an acceptable time frame. They will clearly talk about more of what there is to do. There have been a number of steps, in terms of reconciliation, that the government has taken, meetings they've had of tribal leaders, of religious leaders, political leaders, some in the country, some outside of the country, trying to bring reconciliation together. He has taken steps. Obviously, they have a long way to go.

Remember, this is a government that came in -- we've talked about kind of the new phase in Iraq that was ushered in -- the President talked today -- by the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara in February. That was two months before this government even came into power. So I think we have to recognize that this is a very difficult hand that this unity government has dealt. They are both having to build democratic institutions that in some sense are unprecedented for Iraq's past; they are also trying to build governmental and security capability, new institutions, and at the same time, coping in real time with a very challenging situation.

I think Maliki would be the first person to say he has not produced the kind of results he would like to have produced, and he has some ideas about how to increase his capability to produce those results. The President will be listening to those ideas, and figuring out how we can support him in that effort. That's clearly what he wants to do, that's clearly what the Iraqi people want him to do, and that's what we want him to do, he and his unity government.

Q Does the administration's opposition to a specific timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops encompass and include what the Democrats have been increasingly talking about, which is to say that some troops should be pulled out -- they should start to be pulled out in four to six months? Is that part of what you would consider a specific timetable, and therefore, is that something you would oppose?

MR. HADLEY: I think the President has been very clear that, obviously, he would like to bring U.S. forces home; quite frankly, Iraqis would like to be at the point where they can control their own security and be responsible for their own security, don't need coalition forces. So everybody knows where we want to get. The question is, can you get there in a way that will ensure that Iraqis really are able to control and provide for their own security, recognizing they're in a challenging situation where they're having to build capability under fire, if you will.

So that's a difficult transition to make. The President wants to make sure that the transition is to order and security, not to something less than that. So what the President has said is, it's got to be conditions based; it's got to be a function on progress against the terrorists; progress in Iraq, in terms of building up their security force; and progress in Iraqis on being able to exercise political control over those forces.

What the President has said is, we want to have that transition; that transition will open the door for bringing our forces -- gradually realigning and repositioning our forces, and gradually bringing them home. But that transition is difficult to manage, and those kinds of adjustments in our forces have to be reflecting conditions on the ground.

So when you say, by such and such a date, start, finish, complete -- whatever your number is, you've stepped away from what the President believes is the most important thing, which is a conditions-based approach to the issue of troop levels.

Now the President, as he said today, we are undertaking our review. The issues about troop levels, it's not an issue that he's got a view on other than, very strongly, this set of principles, that it needs to be condition based in a context where Iraq can succeed in taking greater responsibility for its own security.

Want to follow up?

Q So even the call to begin withdrawing troops, not to do the middle or the end, but just to start, as you say, would be -- in your consideration, would be a timetable and therefore you would oppose that, the beginning of it?

MR. HADLEY: I tried to say what the President's principles are. We're in the process of a review. The President has said he wants to listen to all kinds of ideas. He wants to listen to his own commanders. He wants to, obviously, listen to Prime Minister Maliki -- that's why he's going to Iraq.* He wants to listen to Baker-Hamilton. He wants to listen to Democrats in their new role as the majority in both houses of Congress.

Let us have that process. I'd light the answers by saying, we have a set of principles, the President has been very clear on those principles. As to the specifics, the kinds of things you're talking about, let's get through this political -- let's get through this policy review process that we've talked about. You should not take that as a movement on the part of the administration, you should not take it as a rejection of the administration. It is a question that's premature at this point in time. The President has been clear about his principles. I don't expect he will deviate from those principles. But the kinds of specific issues people are talking about I think we ought to allow to come to be addressed as part of this review process.

Q Underlying a lot of the calls for more direct talks with Iran and Syria is the belief that if there were progress, particularly involving Israel, either with the Palestinians, or between Israel and Syria, that if there was progress on those two tracks you might have greater stability in Iraq or across the Mideast. Do you think that that position, that idea, that progress in Israel-Palestine, Israel-Syria is linked to stability in Iraq and the Mideast? Do you share that belief?

MR. HADLEY: We have -- it's in our interest and it's in the interest of the region to both help Iraqis stabilize the situation in Iraq, help Iraq become a democratic state that can, as the President says, can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself, and is an ally in the war on terror. It is also, separately and apart, a good thing for the region and for U.S. policy for the Israelis and the Palestinians to get to the point where they can talk about how to stand down their conflict and move in the direction of a more permanent peace. Those are useful and important policy objectives.

It is also important that the situation in Lebanon be such that the international community is supporting Lebanese democracy against those outside forces that are trying to destabilize it. I don't think these are linked in some kind of game. They are linked, however, in one important respect, as the President has talked about -- they are all differing examples of countries or groups that are trying to assert their freedom and build democratic institutions. That's what you're seeing in Lebanon, that's what you're seeing Iraq, that's what you're seeing by President Abbas in terms of the Palestinian Authority and what he's trying to do among the Palestinians.

It is in the interests of all who love freedom to try and support those efforts. Unfortunately, they are separately being frustrated by countries like Iran and Syria, and those that they support, in terms of Hezbollah and Hamas, that have a very different agenda. So in some sense, while it is in our interest to pursue all those policy levels, they are connected because it is in the context, as the President said, of moderates who are trying to find democratic solutions based on freedom versus extremists that are trying to stop that process.

Q Can you address Syria specifically, Israel-Syria, rather than in the context of Lebanon, or can you talk about Israel-Syria?

MR. HADLEY: What about Israel-Syria?

Q You mentioned the importance of Israel-Palestinian, you mentioned the importance of Lebanon. But what about the importance of negotiations between Israel and Syria, which probably is not --

MR. HADLEY: I think Prime Minister Olmert has been sort of very clear on that subject. Here is Syria, which is clearly putting pressure on the Lebanese democracy, is a supporter of terror, is both provisioning and supporting Hezbollah and facilitating Iran in its efforts to support Hezbollah, is supporting the activities of Hamas. This is not a Syria that is on an agenda to bring peace and stability to the region, and I think Prime Minister Olmert said, under those circumstances, with that kind of Syrian policy, how can you talk about negotiating on the Golan Heights? Seems to me that's a sensible position.


Q There's a report that Hezbollah has been training Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia, both in Lebanon and in Iraq.

MR. HADLEY: I haven't seen the specifics of that support, of that report. But, look, that Iran is doing things to support elements that are in opposition to the coalition and in opposition to the Iraqi government is not news. We've been talking about that for months. In terms of training elements inside Iraq, in terms of transferring equipment and particular things that become elements of improvised explosive devices, we've been seeing that for some time, in terms of flow of money and the like.

So I would say to you, if that report turns out to be true, it would be all of a piece of Iranian activity in Iraq that has not been supportive of progress towards democracy and security; quite the contrary. And that's, of course, why Iraqis have been going to Tehran and sending the message, you are not being constructive in Iraq, and you need to change your policy and become constructive in Iraq.

So I would say, if that report proves out, it's of a piece of what we are seeing, and is why Iraq has been so concerned about the activities of its neighbors, both Syria and Iran.

Q If it is true, was the President today essentially closing the door to U.S. negotiations with Iran, short of them taking care of their enrichment of uranium, stopping that? Was that, what the President was answering today, closing the door to possibly the U.S. engaging in conversations with Iran regarding Iraq?

MR. HADLEY: I don't know what you mean by closing the door. Let me tell you what I think he was saying, is, look, we've said very clearly we are -- one, we've been very clear publicly on our concerns about what Iran is doing in Iraq and other places. So there is not -- and of course the Iraqis have been very clear. So there's not a miscommunication here or something that is hidden. There's lots of communication going on to Iran all the time about its activities in Iraq. Let's be very clear about that.

So this is not a problem of lack of communication. This is a problem of Iran pursuing very destructive policies which we think are also not in Iran's long-term interests, but that's another issue.

What the President has wanted -- was reaffirming today is we made it very clear we are prepared to talk with Iran, and those conversations clearly begin with the nuclear issue. We've talked and offered to talk with Iran in the past about other issues like Iraq, but the issue before us now, and the most immediate one, is the nuclear issue the President just reiterated that we are prepared to talk to Iran about the nuclear issue in the context of the EU3 plus Russia, China and the United States, but it has to be when Iran meets the conditions imposed upon it or set for it, if you will, by the U.N. Security Council, by the IAEA Board of Governors, by Germany, France and U.K., the countries that have been leading the negotiations with Iran, and that is, suspend your enrichment program, suspend your program, come to the table, we will talk. That's what the President was reaffirming today.


Q Can you give us any readout from the meeting that the Vice President had with King Abdullah --

MR. HADLEY: I've got to correct that. Of course, what I meant to say is, suspend your enrichment program, come to the table, and we will talk. That's the point.

Sorry. Sir, go ahead.

Q I was just going to ask whether you can give a readout from the meeting the Vice President had with King Abdullah. We understood that King Abdullah had actually requested the Vice President's presence. And did he have a specific message, and did we carry a message through the Vice President to him about what's going on?

MR. HADLEY: Obviously that was a very confidential conversation. The Vice President has shared it with the President. And it would not be in the interest of our relations with Saudi for me to talk about that conversation here.

Q All right.

MR. HADLEY: Yes, sir.

Q Just to follow up on the question that David -- can you give a little bit more of your analysis of -- you had said in your comments that the Maliki government has not produced the results that we had hoped for. That's roughly a paraphrase.

MR. HADLEY: The results that he has hoped for. And he's talked about that very candidly. And he's talked about what he thinks he needs in order to produce results -- this is not a criticism of Maliki, don't get me wrong. This is not a criticism of Maliki. We think that this unity government is doing pretty well in a very difficult situation. What I'm saying to you is Maliki has been impatient, and has said that his government has not produced the results that they seek, and he's got some ideas about how to enhance their capabilities to do so. It's very important.

Q My question was, you visited Baghdad a few weeks ago, and obviously have talked to him. What is your analysis, just stepping back, of why that has happened, why he has not produced the results he has hoped for? What's your analysis, in a little more detail?

MR. HADLEY: Well, I think it's hard to underestimate the difficult situation this government is up against. It's dealing with a new constitution that is, in many ways, unprecedented in the Arab world. It is a unity government that has been put together, again, the first time in Iraq's history and really in the region where you've tried to put together a government in which Sunni, Shia and other groups -- the Kurds and others -- are working as partners in a democratic framework, rather than one being on top, one on the bottom. They've been at this new constitution, new government, reorganizing the politics after 30 years of brutal oppression, and they've been at it for five or six months and they're doing it in a context where there is considerable violence, sectarian violence that is, in large measure, provoked by al Qaeda in a strategy that Zarqawi announced years ago that he was pursuing. So you have a situation of al Qaeda activities, Saddamist activities, various activities by Sunni extremist group and Shia extremist groups and sectarian violence.

This is a pretty tall order for a government, and, at the same time, you're building your government institutions and your security institutions from the ground up. This is a big challenge. This is a big challenge for a very sophisticated and well-established democracy, much less a country -- a big challenge for a country with the political institutions he's got.

So I don't think one should be surprised that it is not moving at the speed that he wants it to move. This is a huge challenge, and this government needs our support.


Q Can I follow on that statement?

MR. HADLEY: Can I do this, and then I'll come back to you? Yes.

Q Can you describe, in as much detail as you can, what you know about the insurgency in Afghanistan, where it's rising up, how bad it is, what you're hearing about that?

MR. HADLEY: I'll come back to that. Did you want to follow up, Bill, on this one? I thought we were going to --

Q How can you say that we think the Maliki government is doing pretty well when, by all accounts, he would have no strength at all in parliament but for the bloc of votes that Sadr's party holds? It seems to be the majority view, in everything we read, that he has no power except the power which comes from his association with Sadr, who is inimical to U.S. interests.

MR. HADLEY: I don't think that's how it works. I think there are about 270 members, maybe 275 members in the legislature. Sadr has a block of 50. So this is a unity government, drawing from Kurds, Sunni and Shia. It has a broader base of support. Secondly, Sadr is in the government. Sadr has some ministers that are part of the government. And one of the things that Maliki has been very clear about is trying to keep Sadr in that government and get Sadr to recognize that he has a role as part of the government, he has a role as part of the government to ensure that the government is the exclusive source of authority and force within Iraq. And that means going after the extremes, whether Shia extremists or Sunni extremists, those elements that are standing outside the government and are willing to use force against the government. He is trying to unite moderates in Sunni, Shia and Kurd communities into his unity, and give them, through the training of security forces, the strength to go after those elements that refuse to become part of the political process. That's what he's trying to do.

He has said that the government needs to do better. We've said that the situation in Iraq is not proceeding well enough, fast enough. This is not -- I'm trying to give you a very candid assessment. But the question I got was, why isn't he doing better? And all I wanted to do was to remind everybody the situation which this unity government was presented, and the challenges with which they're having to deal. It is something one has to keep in mind when you evaluate what's going on in Iraq. That's my only point.


Q Pretty well is relative, isn't it?

MR. HADLEY: Pardon me?

Q Pretty well, as you said, is pretty relative, isn't it?

MR. HADLEY: It's very relevant, and my point --

Q Relative.

MR. HADLEY: -- was not to -- I hope you don't sort of encapsulize what I've said by saying, Hadley says they're doing pretty well, because I think it would be unfair to what I've just described as a situation which is -- we're very concerned about, high levels of violence, sectarian violence that is a challenge for this new government, things proceeding not well enough or fast enough. All I'm saying is, they are not making the progress we would like, they are not making the progress they would like, and there's some reasons for that, because they face a very challenging situation. That's the best I can do, in terms of describing the challenge they face and where they are in that process.


Q You just said a few minutes ago that you wouldn't be surprised if Iran or Hezbollah were supporting militias inside Iraq, especially the Mahdi militias and Muqtada al-Sadr. Will the President ask Prime Minister Maliki to take any specific measures and steps against Muqtada al-Sadr?

MR. HADLEY: Yes, I have a logic problem.

Q You said -- you were asked about the report that Iran or Hezbollah was training militias --

MR. HADLEY: Yes, I've got it. Let me tell you what Maliki has said. Maliki has said many times that there can only be -- that only the government can have force and military forces in that country, and that those elements that stand outside of that and are willing to use force on the government, there is no place for them into Iraq, and that he is prepared to use force against them. That's what he said.

Now, as I said earlier, Sadr is part of the government, and what he has also said, I think pretty clearly, is those forces who are part of the government need to support the monopoly of force in the hands of the government, and ultimately be willing to support the government is using force against those extremists, whether Sunni or Shia, who stand outside. That's what he's -- that's the challenge that Maliki has made to Sadr. That's the strategy he is pursuing. Can't do better than that.


Q Do you have any indication that Maliki will be asking the U.S. to start discussing some sort of timetable for withdrawal of forces?

MR. HADLEY: No, I don't. I have no indication that he's -- he has not spoken publicly about that, and I don't have any evidence that that's going to be on his agenda. But we'll see when we see him. The two leaders, as I said, have had very frank conversations in the past, and they'll have another one in the future.

Why don't I take you, and then I'll go back to the question on Afghanistan, and then we'll call it quits.

Q Not well enough, not fast enough. Specifically, what will the President ask to make it faster and better?

MR. HADLEY: That is, of course -- there are a couple things to that. One, one of the questions is, what does Maliki think he needs to make it faster and better, because, again, this is a sovereign Iraqi government, a unity government. He has talked about things he thinks he needs to go faster and better. And so the President is going to start, I think, by listening to Prime Minister Maliki, on behalf of the unity government, and say, what is your strategy, what are you going to do, and what can we do to help and support.

Q He hasn't already outlined that?

MR. HADLEY: Pardon me?

Q He hasn't already outlined that?

MR. HADLEY: Sure, he has. You have heard him talk about it. You have heard him talk about it. He has begun to lay out those things. I think they will talk more intensively about what that means, in terms of concrete and specifics. And as you well know, there is a review going on within the government of what additional steps we can take to support the Iraqi government in the effort. This is what this review is in the process of coming up with.

There have been conversations along these lines on the past. They will continue these conversations in order -- with the hope of coming forward with a program, and Iraqi program that we can support and a clear indication of what the United States and other coalition countries can and should do to support the Iraqi plan.

In Afghanistan, one of the -- again, a situation where a country emerges from 40 years of foreign occupation, very oppressive governments, and sort of ongoing violence for 20 or more years, comes out with a democratic constitution, again pathbreaking in the region, and is in the process of building political and security institutions which -- in a context where they have been nonexistent or shattered. And one of the things that I think is clear is the government is only gradually extending its reach into areas in the south. And the Taliban clearly exploited the absence of those institutions to begin burrowing into the south and mounting its attacks on coalition and Afghan forces.

So one of the things that is important is this extension of not only Afghan government authority into the south, but also of a coalition presence by the extension of the NATO mission into the south, and now throughout the rest of the country, and in support of the Afghan government, extension of these 25 PRTs, which are a way of bringing local governance and political support and reconstruction assistance to this part of the country.

Not surprisingly, the Taliban are resisting it. They obviously have burrowed into those potions of the south. They are obviously getting support from outside the country, and there's been a lot of discussion about that. That is something that is of concern to President Karzai, it's a concern to the President, it's a concern to President Musharraf. And that, obviously, as you know, was one of the subjects that came up when the three Presidents met at the hosting of President Bush here six or eight weeks ago.

I think it's -- I think if you put all those together you have a Taliban that also was fairly confident that it could confront the NATO forces as they moved south. They massed, did confront those forces, and NATO did a pretty effective job against them.

We're now going to go into the winter season where some of the -- traditionally the operations have reduced, and during that period of time, of course, NATO will be acting to consolidate their presence in the south and the PRTs will be working with Afghan authorities to try and strengthen institutions in the south. And as the President noted, he has approved the results of a strategic reassessment within the U.S. government that will lead to a request to the Congress for additional support for Afghanistan, both on the security side, on the economic side, and the infrastructure side.

I think we're done. Thank you very much.

Q On a previous question.

MR. HADLEY: Yes, last word.

Q Thanks. Does the President think it's an effort in futility for Iraq to be reaching out to Iran and Syria?

MR. HADLEY: What matters is the Iraqis and the unity government has decided that it needs to reach out to its neighbors and make clear their view of the current behavior of those countries and that they need to stop. And obviously, we support this unity government, and we hope it is successful. Thank you.

Q Do you have any realistic expectation that Iran and Syria would be helpful to establish democracy in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: One brief erratum --

Q Hold on, he's going to answer. (Laughter.)

MR. HADLEY: I would hope that Iran and Syria would recognize that their set of policies to oppose democracy, oppose peace in the Middle East, support terror, and in case -- Iran's case, pursuing nuclear weapons, are leading their countries and their people into increasing isolation, that these are policies that are isolating them in the region, and they're isolating them internationally, that these two policies are driving their two nations into the ditch. And you would hope that some people in those structures in Iran and Syria would recognize this and start to try and change those policies. They will only do so if not only that is the demand by the international community, but there is also some pressure on them to do so. And as you know, under U.N. Security Council resolutions, the international community is trying to impose that pressure on them.

MR. SNOW: Okay. On that note, we will conclude this peripatetic press briefing, but there is one erratum, which is that Steve had --

MR. HADLEY: Peripatetic --

MR. SNOW: Yes, peripatetic, go back and look it up. The great philosophers would walk and talk, that's how you got peripatetic.

*The erratum is this, that Steve had suggested that the President was going to Iraq. Of course, Steve meant that he was going to Amman to speak with the Prime Minister of Iraq. And now, we're out of here. Thanks.

END 6:10 P.M. (Local)