Gates Thanks Soldiers for Success in Iraq
(April 10, 2011)
U.S. Defense Secretary
Robert M. Gates listens to a soldier's question
during a visit to Camp Victory, Iraq, April 7,
2011. Gates held an open discussion with the
soldiers on issues important to them. The
soldiers are assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st
Advise and Assist Brigade. DOD photo by U.S. Air
Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison
BAGHDAD, April 7, 2011 – During what he said
probably is his last visit to Iraq, Defense
Secretary Robert M. Gates today told U.S.
soldiers here that they and their predecessors
have been part of an “extraordinary success
Gates, who has announced plans to
retire, spoke to about 175 25th Infantry
Division soldiers assigned to U.S. Division
Center at Camp Liberty. He arrived in Iraq
yesterday for a series of meetings with military
leaders and senior Iraqi government officials.
“The difference that you and those like you
have made in this country is evident around you
every single day. ... This has been an
extraordinary success story for the United
States military,” he said.
noted that his first visit to Iraq was in
September 2006, while he was serving as a member
of the Iraq Study
Group, a bipartisan commission Congress
appointed to provide policy advice on the war.
“And when I first came here as secretary in late December
2006 and gave my first press conference in front of the
[Joint Visitors Bureau], there was a firefight going on in
the background,” Gates said. “And so the difference that you
have made is just night and day, and I thank you for your
service and your sacrifice.”
As he always does when
he visits with troops, Gates fielded questions. One soldier
wanted to know whether the turmoil in Libya and elsewhere in
North Africa and the Middle East might spread to Iraq.
“I don't see any repercussions from Libya coming here,
partly because there is such broad Arab support for what's
being done in Libya,” he replied. “I do think that the
situation in Bahrain has created some stress here in Iraq
because of sympathy for their fellow Shiia.”
But on a
broader scale, the secretary added, the turmoil in the
region shines a light on the Iraq success story.
a way, it's a measure of what you and the Iraqis have
achieved that Iraq is already where a lot of these other
countries want to be, and that is having fair elections
where anybody can run, having people from multiple sectarian
groups running, and then having a pretty good democratic
government with political and human rights,” Gates said.
In response to a question about the likelihood that the
United States would maintain a military presence in Iraq
beyond this year, Gates said that's up to the Iraqi
“We are willing to have a presence beyond
that time,” he said. “But we've got a lot of commitments
around the world, ... so if folks here are going to want us to
have a presence, we're going to need to get on with it
pretty quickly in terms of our planning and our ability to
figure out where we get the forces and what kind of forces
we need here, and what specifically the mission they want us
to do is.
“I think there is interest in having a
continuing presence,” he added, “but the politics are such
that we'll just have to wait and see, because the initiative
ultimately has to come from the Iraqis.”
with the soldiers was part of a busy schedule for the
secretary today. He met this morning with Army Gen. Lloyd J.
Austin III, commander of U.S. Forces Iraq and U.S.
Ambassador to Iraq James F. Jeffrey, and he had a working
lunch with top U.S. military officers here.
scheduled to meet separately this afternoon with Iraqi Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq
and President Jalal Talabani, and to have dinner this
evening with junior service members.
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
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