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Ambassador Khalilzad Says Iraqi Govt. to Present Security Plan

June 9, 2006 at 3:21 PM EST
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MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Khalilzad, welcome. These two developments yesterday, Zarqawi’s death and finally naming the new interior and defense ministers, how do you expect the new Iraqi government or what do you expect it to do now to capitalize on these?

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq: Well, of course, this is a moment of opportunity for the new government, this government of national unity, and the task for the government is to emphasize unity, to emphasize reconciliation, to work hard to improve the credibility of the security institutions with the Iraqi people, and to move to secure Baghdad, which is more insecure now than it was a few months ago, because of the sectarian violence in the aftermath of the Samarra tragedy.

It is time for the leaders of various communities that are now inside the government to take responsibility and to encourage their leaders and their various groups to stop sectarian violence and to come together.

The death of Zarqawi provides that opportunity, and the government of national unity is the right government to deal with the problem.

A new security assertiveness

Zalmay Khalilzad
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
It is time for the leaders of various communities that are now inside the government to take responsibility and to encourage their leaders and their various groups to stop sectarian violence and to come together.

MARGARET WARNER: The Iraqi government did impose this midday driving ban in Baghdad today, right about the time of midday prayers. Is this part or do you expect to see a new assertiveness on the security front, now that these key security posts are filled?

ZALMAY KHALILZAD: I believe that you will see a new security assertiveness. You will see a new plan for the security of Baghdad announced in the coming days.

You will see also a plan that's being developed how to deal with the militia issues. The militias are a security challenge for the government. There is a need for the commissioning and reintegrating them.

At the same time, it's important, as part of a reconciliation effort, to reach out to those Sunnis who call themselves the resistance, to encourage them to lay down their arms, and to have a balanced reduction in the militia forces, reintegrating them, as well as in the so-called resistance forces, to unite everyone against the terrorist Zarqawi and his friends who he, himself, is gone, but his network is still here to unite the people against them.

MARGARET WARNER: And on the reaching out to the Sunni insurgents, do you think that Zarqawi's death increases the chances that some Sunni insurgents may be more willing now to engage in backchannel negotiations with the government, maybe that they don't have as much fear of reprisals?

New defense ministers

Zalmay Khalilzad
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
[S]ome of them were intimidated by Zarqawi. He was exceptionally brutal, and he intimidated people. And there were Sunnis who were discouraged, disinclined to engage because of that.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD: That's a very important point, Margaret, because some of them were intimidated by Zarqawi. He was exceptionally brutal, and he intimidated people. And there were Sunnis who were discouraged, disinclined to engage because of that.

So we will have to see in the coming days whether his death and the subsequent actions against some of the other elements of Zarqawi, based on intelligence collected in the process of going after Zarqawi, could have a beneficial effect; I anticipate that as being one of the big issues to watch for.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, these two most important new ministers -- the defense minister, Mifarji, is a Sunni Arab and the new interior ministry, Mr. Bolani, is a Shiite -- are they men of sufficient independence from their sectarian affiliations to do what has to be done?

ZALMAY KHALILZAD: I believe they are. If you remember when we talked before, I emphasized that these two ministers had to be independent people, people without ties to militias, unifiers, not polarizers. And I believe that, based on what we know about them so far, that they meet those criteria.

But they are facing a big challenge. They have to -- particularly the minister of interior. The ministry has to be reformed, and the confidence of the people in the ministry has to be gained.

MARGARET WARNER: But the interior minister, Bolani, have to take on these Shiite militias, death squads, that have infiltrated the interior, the ranks of the interior ministry, I mean, one, does he have the political will to do it, but, two, what tools, what authority does he have to do it, in the face of how strong some of these militias are?

ZALMAY KHALILZAD: Well, as I said before with regard to militias, there is a need for a plan of a decommissioning and reintegration.

That will require a political agreement between the leaders of the various forces that form the government of national unity. They have to agree that these militias, as well as the insurgency, has to come to an end.

A political agreement is the first step. The implementation of that agreement, in terms of how many of the militia forces get integrated into security forces, how many get trained for jobs, how many get retired, those are the details that need to be worked out.

The prime minister right now has asked the group to develop a plan for the DDR, or decommissioning, and demobilization, and reintegration of the militias. That is still being worked on, but it will require, not only the support of the ministry of interior and the ministry of defense, but a political decision by the leaders of Iraq.

U.S. reviews Iraq policy

MARGARET WARNER: Now, President Bush has announced that he's going to have these meetings at Camp David Monday and Tuesday to review Iraq policy and that the Maliki government will be included by teleconference on Tuesday. How wide a review will this really be? Is everything on the table?

ZALMAY KHALILZAD: Yes, I think all the key questions are on the table. It's going to be in two parts.

Part one will deal with where we are in Iraq, to do a survey of the scene, in terms of the key issues. And then, where do we need to go? What do we need to adjust in order to get to the goal of an Iraq that is increasingly self-reliant, an Iraq that is increasingly more prosperous, and an Iraq that's increasingly secure?

MARGARET WARNER: And does the Maliki government, as far as you know -- and you're in close contact with them -- is there something they're looking for, in the way of an adjustment, as you put it, in U.S. policy, U.S. tactics, the U.S. approach?

ZALMAY KHALILZAD: Well, they are developing their own ideas and plans, and they will present them in the course of these discussions. And I would not be surprised if they ask for greater emphasis here, lesser emphasis there.

But I don't want to speculate or to announce those to you via the media before they have had a chance to present them to the president and my other colleagues in the government.

Assessing the Iraq's stability

Zalmay Khalilzad
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
We are beginning soon a discussion with them on a road map, in terms of conditions and the level of support that they would need. I think we will reach an understanding with them in the course of the coming months.

MARGARET WARNER: What are the benchmarks that you'll be looking at for the next three to six months that would signal that it was time, really, for the Maliki and Bush administrations to announce a timetable for withdrawal?

ZALMAY KHALILZAD: I think the key thing is what happens in terms of conditions in Iraq: the impact of the unity government; the impact of its effort; in terms of reconciliation; in terms of unity; and in terms of the levels of violence and the Iraqi capability to deal with those.

We are beginning soon a discussion with them on a road map, in terms of conditions and the level of support that they would need. I think we will reach an understanding with them in the course of the coming months.

MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, thank you.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD: Thank you.