Bush: U.S. Forces to Stay in Iraq 'Until Job Complete'
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2006 U.S. leaders will consider all options on moving forward in Iraq, but three tenets of U.S. Iraq policy “remain firm and they’re fixed,” President Bush said this morning after a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan.
He also reiterated that U.S. forces would remain in Iraq “until the job is complete, at the request of a sovereign government elected by the people.”
However, Bush said, the United States ready to make changes “to better support the unity government of Iraq.” He outlined three “key principles” the U.S. government would not waver from.
First among these tenets is that U.S. officials believe the success of Maliki’s unity government is critical to progress in Iraq. “His government was chosen by the Iraqi people through free elections in which nearly 12 million people defied terrorists to cast their ballots,” Bush said. “I've told the prime minister that our goal in Iraq is to strengthen his government and to support his efforts to build a free Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself, and is an ally in the war against the terrorists.”
Maliki agreed. He said Iraqi leaders have many ideas about the way forward and that he believes the challenges Iraq is facing are “not outrageous” given what the country has been through. “There are criminals, there are people who are breaking the law,” he said through a translator. “But the steel strength of the national unity government would help us face all those who are breaking the law, or those who are trying to take down democracy in Iraq, or those who are conspiring and trying to have coups or basically bring down the national unity government.”
Second, the Iraqi security forces must be strengthened because the government’s success depends on their success. Bush said he and Maliki agreed on the importance of speeding up training for Iraqi forces. “Our goal is to ensure that the Prime Minister has more capable forces under his control so his government can fight the terrorists and the death squads, and provide security and stability in his country,” Bush said.
Finally, U.S. officials still believe Iraq must remain one united country “where democracy is preserved, the rule of law prevails, and minority rights are respected,” Bush said.
“In the long-term, security in Iraq requires reconciliation among Iraq's different ethnic and religious communities, something the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want,” he added.
Bush said he has solicited advice from military leaders and is awaiting recommendations from an independent group studying the situation in Iraq. “I assured the prime minister that our review is aimed at strengthening the capacity of the sovereign government of Iraq to meet their objectives, which we share,” he said. “I want to hear all advice before I make my decisions about adjustments to our strategy and tactics in Iraq to help this government succeed.”
However, he stressed, looking at options will not mean pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq in the near future. “I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq,” he said. “We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the government wants us there.”
Bush thanked Maliki for traveling from Iraq to meet with him and said close cooperation with the Iraqi government is key to the U.S. assessment process.
“The prime minister and I agree that the outcome in Iraq will affect the entire region. To stop the extremists from dominating the Middle East, we must stop the extremists from achieving their goal of dominating Iraq. If the extremists succeed in Iraq, they will be emboldened in their efforts to undermine other young democracies in the region, or to overthrow moderate governments, establish new safe havens, and impose their hateful ideology on millions,” Bush said. “If the Iraqis succeed in establishing a free nation in the heart of the Middle East, the forces of freedom and moderation across the region will be emboldened, and the cause of peace will have new energy and new allies.”
Expressing confidence in Maliki’s leadership, Bush said he was reassured by the prime minister’s “commitment to a pluralistic society that is politically united and a society in which people are held to account if they break the law, whether those people be criminals, al Qaeda, militia, whoever.”
The leaders agreed that terrorism is the greatest challenge to the new Iraqi government. “Terrorism is not a danger only to Iraq, it's a culture, it's an ideology. The whole civilized world must face it as one line, one unit,” Maliki said. “Some people might not understand the successes that we have as we daily face terrorism in Iraq and as the security forces in Iraq chase them down, arrest them. This is solid strength based on our vision, and our vision is that terrorism, terroristic ideology, extremism, sectarianism are all issues that will rob humans from happiness.”
In a joint statement issued after their meeting, Bush and Maliki said they had “discussed the plague of terrorism in Iraq, which is being fomented and fueled by al Qaeda.”
“The people of Iraq, like the people of the United States and the entire civilized world, must stand together to face this common threat,” they said in the statement. “We agreed that defeating al Qaeda and the terrorists is vital to ensuring the success of Iraq's democracy. We discussed the means by which the United States will enhance Iraq's capabilities to further isolate extremists and bring all who choose violence and terror to full justice under Iraqi law.”