|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 12, 2006
Press Gaggle by Dan Bartlett
12:38 P.M. EDT
MR. BARTLETT: -- General Abizaid is there. So General Casey, General Abizaid and Ambassador Khalilzad. Did you get everybody who was in the room?
Q No. Got some of them -- Rumsfeld and Cheney.
MR. BARTLETT: Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, Negroponte, Hayden, Hadley, Bolten, Pace.
MR. BARTLETT: And myself. Crouch, J.D. Crouch, deputy national security advisor.
The morning sessions here are focused quite a bit of doing, from the standpoint of focusing on security assessments in the post -- in the wake of the formation of the permanent government. This is an opportunity for the team to discuss with our team in Baghdad various operations that are going on, capabilities of Iraqi security forces and police security forces -- the types of discussions you would expect to be, looking at Maliki's priorities. Maliki has made a commitment to dealing, for example, with the increase in sectarian violence, militias. You saw that he traveled last week to Basra. There was discussion about the Basra situation, as well as Ramadi and Baghdad.
Q Did they talk about U.S. troop numbers?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, they're talking about specific operations. It's not as much as a macro discussion of end strength as it is what are different operations that are happening. As I have said before, the deployment, for example, of the 3,000 troops that are now helping in Ramadi, for example -- many of the focus is in the Baghdad area and what they discussed is bolstering the Iraqi security forces in the Baghdad area and what we're doing to help complement their efforts; how the intelligence picture is developing with regard to different types of sectarian violence, and how the new government can act on that intelligence to target the kidnappings and target those who are the perpetrators of these heinous acts of violence.
Again, there was also discussion and assessment about we are in a post-Zarqawi climate, but, as the President and other members have already talked about last week, that we still view this as a very serious and vexing challenge from the insurgency, from different components. They talked about this. I think the assessment it's still too early to tell the specific detailed, operational reaction to Zarqawi's death. I think --
Q Did they discuss specifically his successor, Zarqawi's successor?
MR. BARTLETT: Not by name, but by -- you know, in notions of, attempts and other groups trying to take advantage of what some have viewed if there will be a leadership vacuum by Zarqawi. So all those types of things were discussed today and talked about.
And, again, it was quite a bit of: what can we be doing and what should we be doing to help the new Maliki government implement the Maliki plan, which is to confront the continued terrorist suicide bombings, the growing sectarian violence and other elements of concern. And I think it's important to understand that the security situation in these different cities are different. Ramadi is a situation where al Qaeda and other foreign fighters have tried to make as a base of operation. Baghdad is a situation where, as you've reported, there's been an increase in sectarian violence by extremists on both sides. Al Qaeda had tried to expose that, themselves. And then in Basra, the situation is a little bit different, as well.
So all of these require different local responses with different capabilities, all with the Iraqis taking the lead. And a lot of the discussions today focused on -- this morning, focused on --
Q Dan, is this a demarcation point so that you can either start the road to troop draw-downs here by saying, we gathered everybody together and we started down that road or, here's the point, the line in the sand, if you will, where we talked about how to be most effective and efficient in delivering help, but they couldn't get it together so, you know, we end up walking away.
MR. BARTLETT: I think that's fundamentally the wrong way to look at this. Fundamentally, these assessments going on today is to say how can we make and help the Maliki government succeed in implementing his plan for his government and his country. It's a permanent sovereign government. And so we're taking a soup-to-nuts look across all government agencies, across both the security apparatus, but, just as importantly, this afternoon's session will focus on different elements of American national -- elements of national power -- commerce, energy and other aspects to make sure this Maliki government is successful.
Once you understand and realize, and as we meet with Iraqis personally tomorrow in a SVTS from here at Camp David, you'll be able to get a better sense of Maliki's needs of what he's looking at from a standpoint of priorities, and that gives a unique opportunity for the two governments to work together to make sure they succeed. And troop numbers, we've talked to you all along about that and how that will be focused, and that will be a conditions-based strategy that will be dictated by commanders' recommendations on the ground.
Q But did the commanders make recommendations from the ground?
MR. BARTLETT: That was not the purpose of this meeting this morning.
Q Right, but did they make recommendations?
Q But did they talk about it?
MR. BARTLETT: That's what I just told you, that was not the purpose of this meeting, so they didn't.
Q But did they talk about what Casey talked about this weekend?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, the President and the National Security team was fully aware of -- General Casey described was a strategy we've been talking about all along, which is the growing Iraqi security forces, we'll put them in more of a lead situation and more parts of the country. That's already taking place, so he was announcing anything new, he was just restating policy.
Q Well, he said gradual reductions in upcoming months. The coming months, he said.
MR. BARTLETT: He's been talking about that for a long time, and Maliki has been talking about the growing strength of the Iraqi security forces over 18 months. Again, all of them have caveated that by saying it's conditions-based. And that's always been the case.
Q If this is not a demarcation point, what is the significance of holding this forum here at Camp David? Does it have more weight? How can Iraqis look at this?
MR. BARTLETT: That it's a fundamental breakpoint for the Iraqi people, and that is when you have a permanently elected, sovereign government taking over, they are in charge, it is their country, and it is incumbent upon us to do everything we can to help them succeed. And it is an important breakpoint for the Iraqi people and for our mission in Iraq from the standpoint of the American people. And the President wanted his advisors to be gathered here to take seriously this strategic assessment at a very important juncture in the birth of a new Iraqi country.
Q Dan, if you take some of the things you said together, you talked about various possible deployments similar to the 3,000 troop movement from Kuwait to Anbar, and you said, the plan has been all along what Casey said, gradual reductions in coming time. When you put those together, a lot of these meetings will be focusing on various deployment decisions with a goal of gradually reducing -- is that overstepping?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, actually, that would contradict yourself, because the 3,000 troops shows that it's conditions-based, meaning there will be -- there are instances where you're going to want to plus-up troops and --
Q But it's discussions with a goal of doing what Casey mentioned --
MR. BARTLETT: Well, as the President said, of course, the goal is to accomplish our mission as quickly as possible so our troops can come home. That's a fundamental premise of all of our conversations. That's what the President has pledged to the American people. But I don't think the American people want us to do it in a premature way in which we don't complete the mission. And what the conversation here is about is how do we help the Iraqi people and this Maliki government succeed in implementing its plan.
Q Doesn't it change the dynamic somewhat to have forever on the calendar June 12/June 13, the Camp David summit, if you will -- from this point forward, the next three, four, five months, if they happen to be rough in Iraq, doesn't it sort of ratchet up the sort of political consequences of something like this?
MR. BARTLETT: I haven't heard one person here talk about the political consequences of any decision. The political consequences may be in Iraq because a political strategy is going to be just as incumbent upon the enemy as a military strategy.
Q With the American public, though?
MR. BARTLETT: I think the American public would be reassured by the fact that this government at all levels, across the board, being convened by the Commander-in-Chief, takes seriously the mission that's happening there, and the fact that we are at, as I said, a strategic breakpoint when you have a new sovereign Iraqi government taking over, that we do everything we can to make sure they succeed. It is an important moment.
I think that's it's been viewed a little bit too narrowly in the sense that it's just about the size of our overall troop presence. There are a lot of different moving components to this mission, and what this demonstrates is that all elements of our government are putting things forward to make sure that the Maliki government succeeds.
Q Dan, did they talk about economics at all?
MR. BARTLETT: That's this afternoon.
Q Oh, that's this afternoon. Okay, fine.
MR. SNOW: Quick readout on the luncheon guests, because I know you're interested. Michael Vickers, Fred Kagan, Eliot Cohen, and Robert Kaplan -- I think NSC -- if you want to ping Michele Davis, I think she can give you -- or Fred.
Q Who's the second one?
MR. SNOW: The second one is Fred Kagan.
Q And the third?
MR. SNOW: Eliot Cohen.
Q They were in the Green Zone, right? I just want to make clear -- that video conference?
MR. SNOW: Yes, yes, yes. Abizaid -- right.
Q And they have been on, Tony, the whole morning session? The link had been established?
MR. SNOW: Yes, the link had been established the whole session.
Q So was it a three-hour session? About?
MR. SNOW: Three-and-a-half.
Q What time did it start, at 9:00 a.m.?
MR. SNOW: It started at 9:00 a.m.
Q Will they be on this afternoon, or is that it for them?
MR. SNOW: I think they're going to be on for part of the afternoon, as well, and then on tomorrow.
Q And just to double-check the other two that were on camera with Abizaid?
MR. SNOW: With Abizaid was General Casey and Ambassador Khalilzad.
Q Thank you.
END 12:48 P.M. EDT