WASHINGTON – The American people will need to show patience with the turbulent recovery in war-torn Iraq because a return to normalcy "isn't going to happen overnight," a top U.S. official said Wednesday.
Amid attacks on U.S. and British forces, L. Paul Bremer (search), the American administrator in Iraq, vowed that the coalition would see the country through its difficult transition.
"I think we all need to be patient," Bremer, appearing from Iraq by satellite, said in a television appearance.
"This is a devastated country," he said. "There's a real mess here in the economy. It will take us time to fix it."
In his appearances on television news shows, Bremer refused to say how long he thought U.S. forces would have to remain in Iraq. He did not answer directly when asked point-blank if it would be at least five years.
Asked on another morning show if postwar security efforts by the U.S. and British forces had failed in light of the continuing attacks, including the slayings of six British soldiers Tuesday in Majar Al-Kabir, Bremer said, "No, they haven't failed."
"We are after all here to, having liberated the Iraqi people, to try to help them get back on their feet after 30 years of dictatorship," he said, "and these kinds of attacks certainly don't serve either our interests or the interests of the Iraqi people."
"Look, it's important to take this all into a little bit of perspective," Bremer said. "Look at what we've accomplished in the last 12 weeks. A successful war, few casualties, almost no collateral damage."
"Regrettable as these attacks are, and it certainly is important for us to stop them, the fact of the matter is, we're on a program here," he said. "We're not going to be deterred by a few fanatics."
Many predictions made by critics of the war effort have not panned out, Bremer said, noting particularly the absence of any refugee crisis or oil refinery fires.
Bremer also took issue with charges by congressional critics that the United States wasn't sufficiently prepared for the work of reconstruction.
"It took 30 years to run it [the country] down and it isn't going to happen overnight," he said. "We knew that. There's never been any surprise that this is going to be a tough, long road."
Former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik (search), who is in charge of security in Iraq, said "we're not seeing an organized resistance. But there is resistance and that resistance is going to continue."
Appearing on yet another morning show Wednesday, Kerik said "a lot of people lost a lot of power when the regime fell. As freedom grows in Iraq, the people that are left out there, the people that will not return to work, that will not return to government — those people are part of that resistance. They will continue to resist and we have to weed them out piece by piece."
"Unfortunately, things like those that happened yesterday will continue to happen for a while," said Kerik, who was in New York for the interview.
"I don't necessarily think there has to be more troops," he said. "I think we have to make sure we collect as much intelligence as we can. There have been a number of attacks by the coalition against the resistance over the last two weeks. This is as a result of intelligence being gathered from the Iraqi people."
"I think as freedom grows in Iraq, the Iraqi people are being emboldened to come forward give up information, tell us where the arms are, tell us where the Baath Party (search) members are," he said, "and we are now being able to go after them."