Baghdad: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today promised that America would give Iraq the support it needs to stay secure amid simmering violence just weeks before a planned US troop drawdown.
Clinton landed in the Iraqi capital a day after two suicide attackers killed at least 55 Shiite pilgrims at a shrine in the city, and less than 48 hours after a similar attack killed dozens in a northern town. A series of bombings and suicide attacks have claimed more than 250 lives so far this month ahead of a June 30 deadline for US troops to leave Iraqi cities and major towns.
Clinton, paying her first visit to Iraq as America’s top diplomat, took questions from an invited audience of about 140 Iraqis, including students, teachers and members of women’s groups, some of whom expressed security fears.
“We are not going to tell you how to resolve internal political issues, you have to decide that,” Clinton said. “But we will continue to work very hard to give you the tools to make sure that you have a secure country.”
Clinton, however, appealed for national unity and said only Iraqis could ensure stability in the long-term and it was up to them to decide if former elements of Saddam Hussein’s regime could join the security forces. “The more united Iraq is, the more you will trust the security services,” she said. “The security services have to earn your trust. But the people have to demand it.”
Clinton, who flew in from Kuwait, earlier met top American military commanders including General Ray Odierno, the top US army officer in Iraq, to hear his assessment of the current security situation.
“I want his evaluation of what these kinds of rejectionist efforts mean and what can be done to prevent them by both the Iraqi government and the US forces,” Clinton said, referring to Thursday and Friday’s suicide attacks.
She also held talks with the UN secretary general’s special envoy to Iraq Staffan de Mistura and was scheduled to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani.