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Bush Says Baghdad Security Plan on Track

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2007 – The Baghdad security plan is on track, and the Iraqi government is meeting benchmarks necessary for continued coalition cooperation, President Bush said today.

Bush today received his first briefing from new Multinational Force Iraq Commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the president’s top pick to lead coalition forces in Iraq, Bush told reporters at a White House news conference. Petraeus took command Feb. 10.

The security plan is taking shape, and the Iraqi government is following through on its commitment to deploy three additional brigades of Iraqi forces to the capital city of Baghdad, Bush said.

He added that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has his top commander in place, and forces are busy setting up a command-and-control headquarters in Baghdad. Bush cautioned, though, that the plan is in its early stages.

“The operation to secure Baghdad is going to take time, and there will be violence,” Bush said. “These are people that will kill innocent men, women and children to achieve their object, to discourage the Iraqi people, to foment sectarian violence, and to, frankly, discourage us from helping this government do its job.”

Recent suicide bombings demonstrate there is an active strategy to undermine the Iraqi government and its Baghdad security plan, Bush said. He also said the recent surge in violence illustrates that failure by the coalition forces to secure Baghdad would have devastating consequences on both the Iraqi and the American people.

“If you think the violence is bad now, imagine what it would look like if we don’t help them secure the capital city of Baghdad,” he said.

If the Iraqi government falls, chaos will follow and the vacuum will be filled with extremists whose pose a threat to our national security, he said.

“To step back from the fight in Baghdad would have disastrous consequences for the people in America,” Bush said. “I believe that success in Baghdad will help us have success in helping us secure the homeland.

“What is different about this conflict than some others is that if we fail there the enemy will follow us here,” he said.

Bush said the first step to stabilizing the region is to secure the capital and give the government “political breathing space.”

This will allow the government to reconcile internal differences and demonstrate to the locals that the government can work and can produce tangible results. Additional coalition forces will help give the Iraqi government that breathing room.

Other benchmarks met by the Iraqi government include the recent passing of its $41 billion budget, of which $10 billion is earmarked for reconstruction and capital investment. Also, lawmakers there are working to pass an oil revenue law that will give the Iraqi people a stake in the country’s oil future, Bush said.

This progress, said he added, will deliver tangible results to the Iraqi people that will demonstrate the government there can work.

Right now, the timing of coalition forces is on schedule to give Petraeus the forces he needs, when he needs them, Bush said. Coalition forces’ initial plans are to begin clearing, holding and rebuild neighborhoods in city. “We have been good about clearing, but not holding,” Bush said.

To help with this, Bush said, he is giving local commanders more flexibility with reconstruction funds and sending more provincial reconstruction teams, so Iraqi people see progress under the new government.

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