Bush Inspired to Visit Capital of Free, Democratic Iraq
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 14, 2006 President Bush said today he was inspired to "visit the capital of a free and democratic Iraq" and spoke of his regard for new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Bush flew to Baghdad yesterday for a surprise visit with Maliki his Cabinet and with U.S. troops serving there.
"It was a pleasure to meet face to face with the prime minister," Bush said in a White House Rose Garden news conference. "I thought it important to sit down with him and talk to him in person. I saw firsthand the strength of his character and his deep determination to succeed, to build a country that can sustain itself, govern itself and defend itself."
Bush, Maliki and members of the Iraqi Cabinet met via videoteleconference with members of Bush's Cabinet at Camp David, Md. Maliki briefed Bush on current military operations in Iraq and laid out his three-pronged plan to bring peace and stability to Iraq.
In his news conference today, Bush described Maliki's approach to improve Iraqi security and the economy and to secure international support for Iraq's fledgling government.
"We discussed ways that my administration can help the prime minister accomplish these objectives," Bush said. "The policy of the United States government is to stand with this new government and help them succeed, and we will do what it takes to help them succeed."
Iraqi security forces, in conjunction with coalition troops, today launched Operation Together Forward in and around Baghdad. Bush described the operation as "a joint effort to restore security and rule of law to high-risk areas in the capital city."
"It will be carried out by some 26,000 Iraqi soldiers, some 23,000 Iraqi police, backed up by over 7,200 coalition forces," Bush said. "Iraqi troops will increase the number of checkpoints, enforce a curfew, and implement a strict weapons ban across the Iraqi capital."
He noted the Baghdad is a city of some 6.5 million people and that it would take time to bring militias and other armed groups under government control there. Still, Bush said, Maliki understands how important it is to deal with the militias and is working to demobilize these armed groups or integrate them into Iraqi security forces.
The U.S. and other coalition countries will assist in this by continuing efforts to train Iraqi forces, Bush said.
On the economic front, Bush said Maliki is working to increase oil and electricity production and "create a public finance system that is accountable and transparent."
"The prime minister has a plan to revitalize the Iraqi economy," Bush said. "He understands that the people have got to feel benefits from the new government. ... It's a simple concept, but it's a profound one."
Bush added that he is sending U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel E. Bodman to meet with the Iraqi energy minister and identify ways the United States can provide more assistance.
Finally, Bush said, Maliki has taken immediate steps to engage the international community. "And we're going to help him," the president added.
He noted members of the international community had pledged $13 billion to help the Iraqi government, but so far have paid only about $3 billion. "So we're going to help encourage those who've made a pledge to pay up to help the new government succeed," Bush said.
In a lengthy question-and-answer session, Bush said the war on terrorism is a particularly tough struggle, because the rules of warfare "are out the window."
"It's just if you can kill innocent life in order to shake somebody's will or ... create consternation to society, just go ahead and do it," he said. Bush called countering the violence "a tough task."
"But I'm confident that this government will succeed in meeting that task," he said.
The president also stressed that he firmly believes the United States will succeed in its mission to bring peace and stability to Iraq. "It's a complex task to help a society go from tyranny from freedom," he said.
"But the American people have got to understand I believe we're going to succeed. That's why we're there," Bush said. "And my message to the Iraqis is, 'We're going to help you succeed.' My message to the enemy is, 'Don't count on us leaving before we succeed.' My message to our troops is, 'We support you 100 percent, keep doing what you're doing.'"