Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you all. Well, I apologize for being so delayed, but we’ve had a great day and I know a lot of you here this evening were the reason we did. The work you’ve been doing and the specific commitment to making this visit so successful is something that really speaks for itself. I’m very, very grateful to each and every one of you, and I must say you have certainly earned a wheels-up party when we’re out of here tonight.
I want to thank Lieutenant General Helmick for representing General Odierno, and more than that, for training the Iraqi security forces, which is part of his set of responsibilities. I also want to just acknowledge Jim Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State, who will be working with our new ambassador and all of you, to deal with the range of issues that we have to tackle. I am here for my fourth trip. I first came in 2003 and then I came back in ’05 and then I came back in ’07. And here I am once again, this time as Secretary of State.
I am both heartened by the progress that many of you have contributed to. I want to thank Pat on behalf of everyone here. She did a great job as DCM until we could finally get the Senate to agree that maybe it was important to have an ambassador in Iraq. And I want to introduce to you your new Ambassador, Chris Hill. You should know that as soon as he was confirmed – I think he was confirmed Tuesday night, late – he packed up everything and hitched a ride to Baghdad. And he was anxious to start this job, which is such a critical one for our own security and certainly for the security and future of the Iraqi people.
I also want to acknowledge former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who did a magnificent job here. Both Ambassadors Crocker and Hill are among the very best that our Diplomatic Corps has to offer. Ambassador Hill has been in conflict situations in Kosovo. He was part of the Dayton Peace Accord negotiations in Bosnia. He served in Poland and South Korea. He was ambassador in Macedonia during the Kosovo war there. So he is no stranger to the kind of challenges that we are facing as we try to help this transition that the Iraqis are undertaking to a stable, sovereign, self-reliant nation.
Being here in my new role, I have to tell you how very proud I am of you. President Obama was here just a short while ago and gave the same message to both our military and civilian forces. We see this as a real partnership. We are now moving into a period where we will be drawing down our combat troops and we’re going to have to be ramping up our diplomatic and development efforts.
I see diplomacy, development and defense as each supporting the core components of American foreign policy: to protect our nation, to advance our interests, and to represent our best values, which is the greatest case we have to make to those who might wonder whether a future of democracy is in their best interests.
Whether you’re from State or USAID or one of the other many agencies represented here, or you’re from our military, you have taken on one of the toughest and most tasking assignments that you could have ever been given. And I want to be very clear, while our strategy has shifted with the SOFA agreement and our commitment to drawing down, we are still committed to the Iraqi people and the future of the Iraqi nation.
I have said that the cornerstone of our foreign policy is smart power with using the best of our hard assets, with what is sometimes called “soft,” but I think either is a misnomer. Many of you in the military have done a lot of diplomatic and development work over the last several years. And a lot of you in the Diplomatic Corps or USAID have done a lot of very hard work, trying to figure out how we could be successful partnering with the military. And I see lots of signs of progress and achievement.
Much has been said about the elections that Iraq has already had. But three successful elections, including this most recent one with provincial elections, is a significant achievement, and that could never have happened without you and your predecessors. So today was an opportunity for me to follow up on the President’s visit and to have in-depth conversations with a variety of Iraqi leaders, as well as a briefing from General Odierno, whom I first met on my very first visit when he was commanding the 4th ID.
And we also tried something a little different, an Iraqi town hall. And I have to tell you, it’s not much different than a town hall in Iowa or New York or somewhere in the States. Lots of hands, lots of questions, and good ones too. It was an opportunity for me to hear directly from Iraqis, and I learned a lot, and it underscored the challenges that we face. So our commitment has not waned; we’re just going to be executing it with some different emphases and priorities. We’re still committed to security because nothing can happen in the absence of it.
I believe, as General Odierno told me this morning, that the tragic attacks of the last few days have not fundamentally altered the security situation. But we have to stay alert and vigilant and we have to continue helping to prepare the Iraqi security forces to be able to prevent and deter the suicide attacks by either explosive belts or exploding vehicles. But I am very confident that we’re going to rise to the challenge. We’re going to be putting real meat on the bones of the strategic framework agreement, which as you know, was adopted at the same time as SOFA – didn’t get as much attention, but now it’s the primary focus of our efforts. Because we have to translate into reality what we mean when we talk about economic assistance and good governance and rule of law, and many of the other services and changes that we would like to be part of.
It is such a high honor for me to serve as Secretary of State. I’ve been blessed over the last years in the positions and honors that I have been able to hold on behalf of our country. And it gives me an enormous thrill to be getting off a plane representing our President, our government, and our nation. But what really touches me is to look out at all of you, away from your families, gone from home for many months, in many cases, committed to your mission, determined to succeed. That’s what is best about our country. We’re here because we see a better future for another people, but we also see the connection between our children’s future and the future of the Iraqi children.
This world has shrunk. It is so interconnected now. There isn’t any place we can walk away from without possibly seeing consequences we’d rather not. So I want you to know that in this beautiful new embassy, that took a very long time to build – (laugher) – are some of the smartest and best people that you’ll find serving America, not just anywhere today, but anywhere in our history. We just have to make sure we deliver. And we’re going to do everything we can to give you the tools and the resources to make that happen.
But it has to be a two-way street. You know, I started a website on the State Department larger web pages to solicit your ideas. If you have a good idea about something we should do differently or better, don’t keep it to yourself and don’t just complain to the people that you work with. Let us know, because we don’t have any time to waste. We need the best practices possible and we need to change direction if we’re going down the wrong way. So I encourage you to let the ambassador know and log onto the site to let us know because we’re going to be on this 24/7. And hopefully, we’ll be back here time and time again and see even more benchmarks and measures of success that we can attribute to the hard work of this team.
Thank you all very much and God bless you. (Applause.)