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September 11, 09

NEWS / Ambassador Hill Says United States Holding to Timetable in Iraq

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — The U.S. ambassador to Iraq says the United States will withdraw all combat forces by August 2010 and all remaining U.S. forces, advisers and trainers by December 2011.

“We are holding to this timetable,” Ambassador Christopher Hill told the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee September 10. “First of all, I do believe Iraq is making progress such that the president’s timetable for withdrawal of our troops, which was something that was supported by the previous administration when it drew up the security agreement, is absolutely achievable.”

Hill said Iraq will have the economic means to run itself as its governmental institutions stand up and U.S. military forces withdraw. For the first time in many decades, Iraq has a chance to be an engine for regional stability and economic growth rather than a source of tension and dispute, he said.

The U.S. military is transitioning to a largely advisory role, while the civilian effort is helping foster security through active diplomacy designed to resolve internal disputes, he said. The United States aims to foster long-term stability by helping the Iraqis build a market-oriented economy with a fully accountable, representative government.

There has been violence as Iraq has suffered a series of attacks, including the attacks on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry August 19. “The reality, however, is that the Iraqi people have stood firm and rejected retribution and a new cycle of violence such as the one that brought Iraq to the brink in 2006,” Hill said.

Hill also said he is encouraged by two rounds of successful elections this year — provincial council elections in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces in January and elections for the Kurdistan regional government in July.

“Today new provincial councils operate, aware that voters will have an opportunity to judge their performance in the next elections,” Hill said.

Preparations have begun for the national elections scheduled for January. Hill said the Council of Representatives is working on an elections law to govern the conduct of those elections, Iraq’s High Electoral Commission has begun to register voters and political parties are negotiating coalitions. Some of those coalitions are likely to include members from across sectarian lines, he said.

Hill said the Iraqi economy remains a work in progress that has been hit by drought, inadequate reforms and declining oil prices. These factors have hampered the Iraqi budget, Hill said. But with oil production and export levels increasing and oil prices recovering in recent months, the budget has improved, he added.

The Iraqi government, Hill said, must pursue a responsible fiscal policy, including negotiating another arrangement with the International Monetary Fund. “It also needs to undertake the economic reforms necessary to join the World Trade Organization and integrate into the global trading system,” he said.




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