President Praises Iraqi Progress
By Gene Harper
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2004 President Bush today promised continued progress toward a stable and self-governing Iraq so that "American troops can come home with the honor they have earned."
In his weekly radio address, Bush said he was honored that Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi visited here this week. "In less than three months, Prime Minister Allawi and his government have accomplished a great deal, despite persistent violence in parts of Iraq," Bush noted.
"The enemies of freedom are using suicide bombings, beheadings, and other horrific acts to try to block progress," he said. "We are sickened by their atrocities, but we will never be intimidated, and freedom is winning."
The president restated the five-step plan he outlined Sept. 23 during Allawi's White House visit in "the goal we all want." He noted that the first step, the June 28 transfer of full sovereignty to an Iraqi-citizen government, was achieved ahead of schedule.
In the second step of helping the country's new government establish stability and security, Bush said that nearly 100,000 "fully trained and equipped Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel are working today." He said the Iraqis are "on track to build a force of over 200,000 security personnel by the end of 2005."
He pointed out that Iraq's military has "performed with skill and success" in Najaf and other areas. "The government's strategy is to surround and isolate enemy militias, reach out to the local population, and negotiate from a position of strength," he said.
"Serious problems remain in several cities," Bush acknowledged. But he said he fully supported Allawi's belief that the "combination of decisive action and outreach to peaceful citizens is the most effective way to defeat the killers and secure the peace."
In the third step of improving Iraq's infrastructure, Bush said that he and the prime minister agreed to speed up the pace of the country's reconstruction. "In the next several months, more than $9 billion will be spent on contracts that will help Iraqis rebuild schools, refurbish hospitals and health clinics, repair bridges, upgrade the electrical grid, and modernize the communication system," he said.
The fourth step, garnering more international support for Iraq's transition to democracy, is moving ahead. "The multinational force of some 30 nations continues to help secure a free Iraq, and we are grateful for the service and sacrifice of all," the president said. He noted that the coalition also appreciated the work and support of the United Nations, the G-8 countries, the European Union and NATO.
In the last, "most important step" of helping Iraq carry out free elections by January, Bush said he and Allawi "have urged the U.N. to send more personnel to help ensure the success of the Iraqi elections."
The president reminded the radio audience of both good and difficult days ahead in Iraq's "fight against some of the most ruthless and brutal men on Earth."
"But every day," Bush stressed, "our resolve must remain the same: Iraq, America, and our coalition will stand firm, and Iraq will be free, the world will be more peaceful, and America will be more secure."