Bush Recaps Iraq Visit in Weekly Radio Address
By Tech. Sgt. Elaine Wilson, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 18, 2006 President Bush said it was an "incredible feeling" to visit the capital of a free and democratic Iraq and personally thank U.S. troops for their sacrifice, including those who brought al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to justice last week.
"It was a privilege to shake their hands, look them in the eye and tell them how much the American people appreciate their daily courage, and how much we appreciate the sacrifices they and their families are making," the president said during his weekly radio address to the nation yesterday.
Bush said he paid the surprise visit to Baghdad June 13 to meet with troops and others "serving far from home under dangerous circumstances," as well as to pledge America's continued support to the fledgling democracy.
"I traveled to Baghdad to personally show our nation's commitment to a free Iraq, because it is vital for the Iraqi people to know with certainty that America will not abandon them after we have come so far," Bush said.
The president met with the new Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and his Cabinet during the whirlwind trip. The nation's top leaders set up a videoteleconference so U.S. and Iraqi Cabinet members could discuss Iraq's future plans and America's role in helping the nation become a "lasting democracy," Bush said.
The prime minister outlined his plan for Iraq's future, Bush said, including his immediate goals to improve security, build up Iraq's economy and secure international support for the new government.
"His top priority is securing Baghdad," Bush said, adding that coalition and Iraqi forces have launched Operation Together Forward to help the nation restore security to high-risk areas of the city.
America's role in the joint effort, Bush said, will be to help by continuing to embed coalition teams in Iraqi army and police units, and working to improve command and control, root out corruption and stop human rights violations.
To aid the prime minister in restoring Iraq's economy, the president said he will send experts to help the Iraqi government develop an economic framework that will create jobs and opportunities for Iraqis. He also pledged to help increase oil and electricity production by working on ways to protect key infrastructures from attack and restoring production when attacks to occur.
On an international front, Bush said he will encourage cooperation by supporting the Iraqi leader's efforts to forge a new international alliance. "Iraq will take a series of steps in the political, economic and security areas and, in return, the international community will provide Iraq with more robust political and economic support," he explained.
Although Bush told Iraqi leaders that "the future of Iraq is in their hands," he also assured them that America's commitment to helping the fledgling democracy will not end.
"I told them that America is a nation that keeps its word and America will stand with them as we work toward our shared goal - a free Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself," he said.
Bush said he walked away from the meeting impressed with the new prime minister. "I was able to see firsthand his strong character and determination to succeed. I appreciate his determination, and the determination of his Cabinet, to make his agenda work," he said.
Challenges lie ahead as both nations continue to struggle to defeat "determined enemies" and sacrifice to protect the innocent, but Bush said he is certain America's efforts in Iraq will pay lasting dividends. "By seizing this moment of opportunity, we will defeat our common enemies and build a lasting democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and that will make Americans, Iraqis and the world more secure."