'As Iraqis Stand Up, We Will Stand Down,' Bush Tells Nation
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
In a nationally televised speech at Fort Bragg, N.C., the president cited progress in Iraq and emphasized that the best way to complete the mission is to help the Iraqi people build a free nation they can govern and defend themselves.
"The principal task of our military is to find and defeat the terrorists," he said. "And that is why we are on the offense. And as we pursue the terrorists, our military is helping to train Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their people and fight the enemy on their own. Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down."
More than 160,000 Iraqi security forces are now trained and equipped, Bush said. Some, he said, are capable of operating independently, and others now are experienced enough to plan and execute anti-terrorist operations with coalition support. Some units still are forming, the president said, and the task of training them continues with three new approaches.
"First, we are partnering coalition units with Iraqi units," he explained. "These coalition-Iraqi teams are conducting operations together in the field. These combined operations are giving Iraqis a chance to experience how the most professional armed forces in the world operate in combat."
The second approach has coalition transition teams living, working and fighting together with their Iraqi comrades, Bush said. "Under U.S. command, they're providing battlefield advice and assistance to Iraqi forces during combat operations. Between battles, they are assisting the Iraqis with important skills, such as urban combat and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance techniques."
The third approach involves working with the Iraqi ministries of interior and defense to improve their capabilities to coordinate anti-terrorist operations. "We're helping them develop command-and-control structures," Bush said. "We're also providing them with civilian and military leadership training, so Iraq's new leaders can effectively manage their forces in the fight against terror."
Some 2,000 Iraqi security forces have died in the line of duty, the president pointed out. "Iraqi forces have fought bravely, helping to capture terrorists and insurgents in Najaf and Samarra, Fallujah and Mosul," he said. "And in the past month, Iraqi forces have led a major anti-terrorist campaign in Baghdad called Operation Lightning, which has led to the capture of hundreds of suspected insurgents. Like free people everywhere, Iraqis want to be defended by their own countrymen. And we are helping Iraqis assume those duties.
"The progress in the past year has been significant," he said, "and we have a clear path forward."
Acknowledging that the mission in Iraq is "difficult and dangerous," Bush said the mission also is clear. "We're hunting down the terrorists. We're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren."
Bush said that like all Americans, he sees "horrifying" images of the war. "And the suffering is real," he said.
"Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom," the president said. "Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia, and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and others. They are making common cause with criminal elements, Iraqi insurgents and remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime who want to restore the old order."
And the enemy, he said, is brutal.
"We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque," he said. "We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who behead civilian hostages and broadcast their atrocities for the world to see."
But "savage acts of violence," Bush noted, have not brought the terrorists any closer to achieving their strategic objectives.
"The terrorists, both foreign and Iraqi, failed to stop the transfer of sovereignty," he said. "They failed to break our coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies. They failed to incite an Iraqi civil war. They failed to prevent free elections. They failed to stop the formation of a democratic Iraqi government that represents all of Iraq's diverse population, and they failed to stop Iraqis from signing up in large number with the police forces and the army to defend their new democracy."
Bush noted that Libya has abandoned its designs on nuclear and chemical weapons, and that steps toward freedom and democracy are taking place in the Middle East. "Our strategy to defend ourselves and spread freedom is working," he said. "The rise of freedom in this vital region will eliminate the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder, and make our nation safer."
Though much has been accomplished, much remains to be done, Bush said.
"We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America's resolve," he said. "We're fighting against men with blind hatred and armed with lethal weapons, who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform. They respect no laws of warfare or morality. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on Sept. 11, 2001.
"They will fail," he continued. "The terrorists do not understand America. The American people do not falter under threat. And we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins."
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