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Minnesota National Guard
Gates, Casey visit 1-34th BCT at Camp Adder

CAMP ADDER, Iraq - Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen George Casey met Friday with military leaders from US and coalition forces and later held a joint news conference to address recent developments in the Iraq war

The visit to Iraq was Gates' second since replacing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last month It came in the midst of President George W

Bush's announcement last week to send a surge of 21,500 additional troops to help quell violence and increase security in Baghdad
"Ultimately, our goal is that Iraq can [eventually] defend itself, sustain itself and govern itself," said Gates at the conference

"Whatever one's views are on how we got to this point here in Iraq, at this pivotal moment there is widespread agreement here that failure would be a calamity for American national interests and those of many other countries as well Given what is at stake, failure is not an option"
The current security challenges in Baghdad cannot be dealt with purely by military means, said Gates, referring to the more than 20 countries that are providing "valuable aid and support" in Iraq Gates said he was grateful for their contributions and mentioned seeing the results of their work in the Basra area earlier that morning

"There are instigators of violence who are working against these efforts in Iraq, but many Iraqis recognize this destructive influence and they're taking steps to eliminate it," said Gates "The United States is fully committed to aiding them in this effort"

While at Camp Adder, Gates and Casey also had the opportunity to talk with Col David Elicerio, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division News that the unit's deployment would be extended for 125 days past its original mid-March homecoming came simultaneously with the announcement of the troop surge, which understandably came as a shock to the Soldiers and their families

"The determination of the men and women in uniform, active and Reserve, has been very successful - and I've seen it firsthand," said Gates "We mustn't forget that each one of these Soldiers has family back home I just hope that Americans won't forget each one of these [Soldiers] and their loved ones"

When asked how the Iraqi government was doing to meet its commitment of creating self-sufficient police and military forces, Casey said, "So far, so good"

"We're seeing them come through on those commitments You're going to see some progress gradually over the next 60 to 90 days," said Casey "I think it's probably going to be the summer, late summer, before we get to the point where the people in Baghdad feel safe in their neighborhoods"

Those commitments, Casey said, include the Iraqi government giving its security forces the authority needed to accomplish the mission, keeping political influence out of the process, not providing safe havens for terrorists, and allowing security forces to prosecute or go after anyone who breaks the law

When asked to respond to recent comments in which Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the threat of insurgents has lasted longer than it should have because the US, specifically, has been slow in arming Iraqi forces, Casey said it was important to remember how far that effort has come since 2003

"The training and equipping of the Iraqi military that has taken place over the last three years started from scratch, started from zero - no bases, no units, no equipment," said Casey "At the end of 2006, we completed the building of what we call the objective counterinsurgency - the Iraqi army that we promised three years ago The completion of equipping them will take place throughout 2007"

Gates' overseas tour began in London and continued to NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium and Afghanistan before he arrived in Iraq Wednesday

By Spc Dustin Perry, 1/34th BCT Public Affairs
1/19/07
Entension of the 1st Brigade Combat Team



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