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Bush Says U.S. Security Depends on Victory in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2006 – Winning the war on terror in Iraq is critical to American defense, President Bush said today in a White House news conference.

Bush largely spoke about changes to coalition strategy and tactics in Iraq.

“Our security at home depends on ensuring Iraq is an ally in the war on terror and does not become a terrorist haven like Afghanistan under the Taliban,” the president said.

America’s goals in Iraq are unchanging, but the methods must be flexible, he said. “On the military side, our commanders on the ground are constantly adjusting their tactics to stay ahead of our enemies,” Bush said. “We’re refining our training strategy for Iraqi security forces so we can help more of those forces take the lead in the fight and provide them better equipment and firepower to be successful.”

The coalition has increased the number of advisors in the Iraqi ministry of defense and interior to help the Iraqis plan and execute operations, Bush said. And the United States has changed force structure in Iraq as needed to counter enemy activity.

“Most recently we have move Iraqi and coalition forces into Baghdad so they can help secure the city and reduce sectarian violence,” he said.

However, he added, after some initial successes Iraqi and coalition operations to secure Baghdad have encountered greater resistance. “Some of the Iraqi security forces have performed below expectations,” the president said. “Many have performed well and are fighting bravely in some of Baghdad’s toughest neighborhoods. Once again, American troops are performing superbly under difficult conditions. Together with the Iraqis, they have conducted hundreds of missions throughout Baghdad.”

But military power cannot win the war alone, Bush said, noting the Iraqi government has to take steps to solve problems contributing to the insurgency. “In addition to refining our military tactics to defeat the enemy, we are also working to achieve a political solution that brings together Shiia and Sunni and Kurds and other ethnic and religious groups,” Bush said.

Bush delineated a three-step approach to Iraq. First, coalition officials are working with political and religious leaders across Iraq urging them to take steps to restrain their followers and stop sectarian violence.

Second, U.S. officials are helping Iraqi leaders to complete work on a national compact to solve the most difficult issues dividing their country. “The new Iraqi government has condemned violence from all quarters and has agreed to a schedule for resolving issues such as dissolving militias and death squads, sharing oil revenues, amending the Iraqi constitution and reforming the de-Baathification process,” the president said.

Third, the United States is reaching out to Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan and asking them to support the Iraqi government’s efforts to persuade Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and accept national reconciliation.

Bush called these tasks daunting for any government, but particularly so for a government that has been in place only for just over five months. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s unity government “has to solve a host of problems created by decades of tyrannical rule, and they have to do it in the midst of a raging conflict,” Bush said.

The United States will continue to press the Iraqis to move quickly, the president said. “We’re making it clear that America’s patience is not unlimited,” he said. “Yet we also understand the difficult challenges Iraq’s leaders face, and we will not put more pressure on the Iraqi government than it can bear.”

He said the strategy as Iraq moves forward is to help Iraq’s government grow in strength and assume more control over its country as soon as possible.

Bush said the American people want to win in Iraq. “They will support the war as long as they see a path to victory,” Bush said. “Americans can have confidence that we will prevail, because thousands of smart, dedicated civilian and military personnel are risking their lives and working around the clock to ensure our success.”

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