U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari to discuss a number of diplomatic issues now before the United States and Iraq. In the course of their meeting, Secretary Clinton emphasized the urgent need for Iraq to form a government. Iraq's political leaders must "continue the hard work necessary to form a proportionate and inclusive government that represents the voices of Iraq's diverse communities and can deliver on the promise of democracy," said Secretary Clinton:
"More is needed from everyone involved. The United States expresses no preference for the outcome in the government formation, but we share a sense of urgency. The people of Iraq deserve to have a government that is ready to meet their needs, and we hope that that occurs soon."
The Iraqi security forces are growing in their capabilities, which has been evident in the way that they've dealt with recent attacks. But even as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw from Iraq, U.S. interests will remain. After August 31st, 50,000 U.S. troops will still be in Iraq to train, equip, and advise Iraqi security forces, conduct joint counterterrorism missions, and protect ongoing U.S. and civilian military activities.
The reduction in U.S. troops, said Secretary Clinton, "in no way reflects a decrease in American engagement with Iraq or America's commitment to the Iraqi people. Guided by the Strategic Framework Agreement, the United States will continue to be an active partner and supporter as Iraqis strengthen their democracy, improve their security, and reintegrate fully into the regional and global community and economy."
A sustained U.S. role will be crucial to lasting peace and security in Iraq. But ultimately, said Secretary Clinton, the U.S. recognizes that "the long-term success of the Iraqi nation depends upon the leaders and people of Iraq. It is their determination and hard work that will make the difference." The strong turn-out in the March 7th election underscored the resolve of the Iraqi people, but delays have occurred on the road to forming a government. "The Iraqi people are tough, resilient, and determined people who are more than up to the task," said Secretary Clinton. "And the United States will stand with the Iraqi people for the long term."