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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

David M. Satterfield
Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and Coordinator for Iraq

March 22, 2007

David M. Satterfield
I'm pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this on-line event. On January 10, the President outlined a new strategy for Iraq. On January 11, Secretary of State Rice provided further detail on how specifically we will pursue the New Way Forward along four tracks: economic, political, security, and diplomatic. This morning I was testifying before Congress on Capitol Hill, and now I will do my best to answer your questions.

Patricia, from Tullahoma TN writes:
We see stories about all the bad things going on in Iraq, like the bombers and IEDs, water shortages, and blackouts. These certainly are newsworthy, but I wonder if there areas which are stable? Do sections of the country have reliable water and power, stable commerce, good and safe schools, and no violence?

David M. Satterfield
There are some areas that are relatively stable, but these areas have a harder time making news. The Kurdistan Regional Government areas are relatively stable, as is much of the south. Even parts of Baghdad are relatively stable, although most of it does face instability. The insurgents are using a tactic of random violence to spread the idea that no part of Iraq is completely safe, but in fact the majority of Iraq’s provinces are stable.

Sara, from Canal Winchester, Ohio writes:
Please explain the administrations rationale behind the troop surge once again. Many Americans at home and those overseas do not understand how this will help. Over half of Iraqs citizens now support the idea of attacking US troops. With those sort of numbers, how can you possibly continue to send our innocent troops into battle? Most of our troops are dying by sniper bullets, suicide bombers and roadside bombs. How are they supposed to defend themselves against an enemy hidden from their eyes? These young men and women flocked to army recruiters post 911 to serve our country and defend us from terrorists. Do you not find it ironic that we are now feeding them to the very enemy we are trying to fight? There must be a better way than this.

David M. Satterfield
Most Iraqis do not support attacking U.S. or Iraqi troops. We are aware that there are opinion polls that have suggested this, but when we inquire further, it is clear that the Iraqis are using answers to opinion poll questions as a way of expressing a desire that the Iraqi government provide security for the Iraqi people. That is our goal, too. Only terrorists, insurgents and illegal militias try to attack our troops. They are relatively small in number. The Iraqi government supports the Coalition’s presence and the troop surge. The Iraqi parliament -- the Council of Representatives -- voted overwhelmingly to support Iraqi participation in Operation Enforcing Law, which is the Iraqi name for what we’ve called the Baghdad Security Plan. So the Iraqi people, through their representatives, know the rationale for the surge and approve it.

Michael, from Queens Village, NY writes:
How much are the Iraqis helping the Americans in Iraq, to help them in the rebuilding of their country?

David M. Satterfield
Over the last three years, the Iraqi Government has become increasingly capable of managing its own affairs and is taking steps to improve its ability to spend its budget to deliver essential services, foster economic growth, and further national reconciliation. Iraq has budgeted more than $10 billion in 2007 for a range of services, such as increasing oil production, improving water, electricity, health and education. It also has set aside $2.4 billion to support development, job creation, and business formation in the provinces. The Iraqi Government is also making progress in implementing its reform agenda, including an investment law and hydrocarbon legislation. The Iraqi economy continued to grow moderately in 2006, close to the World Bank’s forecast of 4% GDP growth, creating new jobs for the Iraqi people. In all of these ways, the people and government of Iraq are helping with the rebuilding of their nation.

Matt, from Centreville, VA writes:
Ambassador - Kirkuk's citizens will vote this year on whether to join the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). A dramatically expanded KRG will likely be viewed unfavorably by its neighbor to the north, Turkey. What steps are being taken to promote better relations between the KRG and Turkey?

David M. Satterfield
The Iraqis and Turks have taken it upon themselves to promote better relations, including increased high-level contact. Turkey is one of the major investors in the Iraqi economy, and both sides have an interest in good relations. Gen. Joe Ralston, one of the United States' finest soldier-diplomats, is working closely with both the Iraqis and the Turks to counter the PKK, a known terrorist group that operates out of northern Iraq.

Brent, from Arlington, TX writes:
During the Soviet-Afghanistan War, the United States committed weapons and support to the resistance forces, as well as with a commitment to help the Afghan people rebuild their homes and infrastructure. Unfortunately, we fell short on our end of the rebuilding part, and the Taliban took over the country's government fueling resentment for us. If the White House let the Democrat's plan of a timetable go through into actual practice, could we see a rebirth of a Taliban type organization taking us head on in the next five to ten years in Iraq?

David M. Satterfield
The recently released National Intelligence Estimate made clear that a Coalition military withdrawal would lead to terrorist groups and militias overwhelming the elected government of Iraq and setting up safe havens that they would use to pose a threat to Iraqi and international peace and security and ultimately thereafter the U.S. homeland. However, we do not intend to leave until the job is done or the Iraqis ask us to leave.

Jill, from Oklahoma writes:
Is there an action plan in terms of progress in Iraq with clear outcomes of progress and actual dates for these goals to happen? If not, why isn't there?

David M. Satterfield
There are clear benchmarks of progress that the Iraqis have set for themselves and are trying to meet. We are doing everything we can to help them meet those benchmarks. Setting rigid timetables would be very unwise. It would empower those who would like to obstruct progress, whether in security, political or economic spheres. Similarly, to threaten withdrawal would be to give al-Qaida and other militia groups exactly what they want, which is to remove the Coalition military and allow a terrorist takeover of Iraq from the Iraqi people and their elected, national unity government.

david, from portland, OR writes:
How do you expect to win hearts and minds and truly help rebuild and strengthen Iraq when nearly the entire "new strategy" or "troop surge" is focused on military operations?Secondalternative question: What are the political stumbling blocks that keep the Sunnis and Shiites from working together? The American people have heard nothing about political negotiating with these groups at all. There must be something that will satisfy both sides that would incorporate the individual malitias into one army.

David M. Satterfield
As you know, the President has decided to augment our own troop levels in Baghdad and Anbar to support Iraqi troops and commanders (who are now in the lead) to help clear and secure neighborhoods and create the conditions necessary to spur local economic development. The State Department is contributing robustly to this effort by expanding our presence and closely coordinating with our military counterparts in and outside of Baghdad, as well as with the Iraqi government, to capitalize on security improvements by creating jobs and promoting economic revitalization.

The centerpiece of this effort is the expansion of our Provincial Reconstruction Teams. We are doubling the number of PRTs from 10 to 20 and adding more than 300 new personnel. The first phase of PRT expansion is soon to be complete, as the 10 new interagency PRT core teams will arrive in Iraq by March 31. Over the next month, PRT team leaders will work jointly with Brigade Commanders to develop plans for the “build” phase of clear, secure, and build. PRTs will target both civilian and military resources against a common strategic plan to bolster moderate Iraqi leaders through targeted assistance, promote economic growth and create new jobs, and develop provincial and local capacity to govern in an effective and sustainable way.

President Bush met with the new PRT core teams today at the White House to emphasize the U.S. commitment to the PRT mission and to highlight that the PRTs in Iraq have an extraordinary opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of ordinary Iraqis, just as they help to accelerate the transition to Iraqi self-reliance.

Tarik, from Illinois writes:
On the one hand the President rejects any attempts by Congress to limit the scope of the war or to put benchmarks in place. On the other hand he has stated that we don't have an open-ended commitment and that the Iraqi government must stand up and take responsibility. With out any type of timetables, benchmarks or consequences how does he hope to compel the Iraqi government to take responsibility?

David M. Satterfield
The Iraqi people are demanding results from their government, and the government is trying to be responsive. The Iraqi government has set objectives for themselves, and we are urging them to do what they need to do, and we are supporting them.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Advisor Satterfield: The man on the street only hears the request for more TROOPS. We do not feel this is what one would call progress. So what are the area's of progress and which ones have we made the most progress in? Thank You

David M. Satterfield
We have rebuilt the Iraqi army and police essentially from zero in 2003 to where it is in the lead in much of Iraq already. At the same time, Iraq no longer presents a threat to its neighbors. The drafting and ratification of a new Iraqi Constitution and two democratic elections have demonstrated that Iraq has made considerable progress after 35 years of a brutal dictatorship. The Iraqi economy is also improving after decades of mismanagement and inefficiency. The Government of Iraq has made progress on its agenda of structural adjustment. They have introduced a new currency, established new laws for financial investment, made the Central Bank independent, introduced a new hydrocarbon law and sector reform, and promoted a means-tested social safety net. GDP has more than doubled since 2003, and, despite the security situation, the economy continues to grow, albeit slowly.

Jiesheng, from Singapore writes:
Good Morning. What are the yardsticks the Presidentthe Adminstration has set regarding peace and progress in Iraq? I note President Bush's latest speech focused on the capital but if the capital is secure, does that mean other cities, areas are secured too? And will the US consider using support from Iraq's neighbours such as Iran or Syria? Thank You.

David M. Satterfield
The yardsticks for progress in Iraq include improving Security for the Iraqi people, passage of a hydrocarbon law, reform of current De-Ba’athification laws, and better execution of the Iraqi budget. Progress in Iraq would also mean continued political development: continuing to hold elections and improve on the rule of law, and passage of legislation to implement the constitution. for the President’s New Way Forward emphasizes bolstering political moderates, by which we mean those who resolve disputes peacefully through the political process, to prevail increasingly over violent extremists. We recognize this will take years to achieve, but it will be an indicator of progress. Also critically important is revitalization of Iraq’s economy, including more private sector investment and development and better delivery of services to the Iraqi people.

Zac, from Milton Delaware writes:
I believe it is vital to try to get our troops to fit into the surroundings of Iraqi people. By that I mean: Talk to them, not rough-house them, and just let them know we are not there to take over there country forever. Are our troops doing that? I know it is hard to know the difference between a terrorist and a regular Iraqi, but I feel this must be done somehow. I sure do appreciate your time. Zachary

David M. Satterfield
We have a very positive relationship with the Iraqi military at all levels. US soldiers work side-by-side with the Iraqis on challenging military missions and on training. We are together confronting al-Qaida in Iraq and other extremists.

David M. Satterfield
Let me just close this on-line chat by noting that the President has made clear to Prime Minister Maliki that America's commitment is not open-ended. The Government of Iraq must, with our help, take the lead in articulating and achieving the political, security, economic, and diplomatic goals that are essential to success.

As the Iraqis continue to make progress and increasingly assume responsibility for the stabilization and economic development of their country, our commitment to them must remain strong. The President's New Way Forward in Iraq will empower Iraqis to take the steps necessary, both politically and economically, to fulfill its commitments and realize our mutual goal of a stable, federal, democratic Iraq, at peace with its neighbors and an ally in the war on terror.

Thank you very much.

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