BAGHDAD – C-SPAN’s audience call-in program, Washington Journal, initiated an open audience, question and answer session with Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, spokesman, United States Forces – Iraq, Sept. 5.
The program aired live in the U.S. at 7:45 a.m. eastern time.
Greta Bawer, host of the Washington Journal television program, and Buchanan discussed the status of the Iraq transition mission and the American legacy in Iraq.
There have been transitions in security that the military has been performing to the leadership of the State Department, replied Buchanan explaining what needs to happen between now and Dec. 31 for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq.
“Our two countries signed a bi-lateral security agreement in 2008 that established conditions for the U.S. forces,” he said. “A requirement of that was that our forces transition completely to a civilian authority by the end of this year. We are completely on track to do just that,”
Since the start of Operation New Dawn last year, U.S. forces have been transitioning military bases throughout Iraq. Most recently, the Iraqi army regained operational control of Kirkush Military Training Base, Aug. 21.
Transition is the key idea to recognize the relationship between the U.S. and Iraq is not at an end, but rather at a start of a lasting partnership, said Buchanan.
“Right now, we have tasks that we are undertaking as part of stability operations,” answered Buchanan when asked about the current role of U.S. troops. “We are here to advise, train, assist and equip security forces.”
“We have helped continue to professionalize their forces and set them [the Iraqis] up for success in the future to better meet all of their needs,” he said.
Buchanan took questions from live callers and the Washington Journal’s live Twitter feed.
The first caller was David, a high school U.S. history teacher from Oklahoma, inquiring for his students, he asked what was most important to know about Iraq right now?
Thanking David for his service as a teacher in the U.S., Buchanan replied that our military has learned an incredible amount and has changed positively from learning the differences in Iraqi culture.
“We have to work very hard to be students of culture,” said Buchanan. “If we are going to be successful working with any country, we have to understand their frame of reference.”
“By understanding the Iraqi culture we have learned to effectively work together as partners,” said Buchanan.
He also stressed the importance of understanding and establishing democracy.
“Democracy is a lot more complex than just being able to choose your form of government or voting for who is going to lead that government,” said Buchanan.
“Helping the Iraqis develop a democratic system where none had existed before has certainly been a growing process,” said Buchanan. “We are seeing growth of democracy in Iraq because of the values required to underpin that democracy.”
The development that people are responsible for the government, and that the government is held accountable for the people are very new ideas in this part of the world, he said.
Another caller asked what in trade the U.S. would receive, as a nation, from Iraq for sacrificing the lives of approximately 5,000 service members and spending trillions of U.S. dollars?
It is important to not define the sacrifice as that kind of investment, Buchanan replied.
“I do think it is important to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice,” he said. “I have lost a lot of friends here.”
Buchanan reiterated the positive legacy the U.S. will leave with Iraq.
“Movements are happening in the right direction,” he said. “We are establishing a partner in democracy. The U.S. is here to provide the Iraqi community a way to meet its own potential and become a positive example to other countries that are in a state of change.”
This work, USF-I spokesman appears on C-SPAN’s ‘Washington Journal’, by SGT Karen Sampson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.