U.S. Troops Helping Iraqis Reclaim Country, Bush Tells Soldiers
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2007 While parts of Iraq remain violent and difficult, the Iraqi people are taking back their country with the help of U.S. troops, President Bush said during a speech on Fort Jackson, S.C., today.
Bush spoke to soldiers graduating from basic training at the post. He told them that many of them will be serving in Iraq or Afghanistan as they continue their Army careers.
There has been tremendous progress in Iraq, the president said, but more must be done.
“The enemy remains determined, but what they have learned about the United States of America is, we are more determined,” he said. “We're more determined to protect ourselves and to help people realize the blessings of freedom. With our help, the Iraqi people are going on the offense against the enemy. They're confronting the terrorists, and they're taking their country back.”
The surge strategy has been the cornerstone to this turnaround in Iraq, Bush said. Five more brigade combat teams flooded Baghdad and its environs, and more Marines went into Anbar province.
“As part of our strategy, we sent forces into neighborhoods where Iraqis lived to ferret out the extremists, to gain the confidence of the people,” Bush said. “Together with Iraqi forces, we have captured or killed an average of more than 1,500 enemy fighters per month since January of this year.”
The president said the number of attacks with improvised explosive devices, the deadliest weapon against U.S. forces, has been cut in half. U.S. military deaths have fallen to their lowest level in 19 months.
“Iraqi forces have now assumed responsibility for security in eight of Iraq's 18 provinces,” Bush said. “Across the country, brave Iraqis are increasingly taking more responsibility for their own security and safety.”
The enemy sees the changes and is on the run; Osama bin Laden even realizes the mistakes al Qaeda has made, Bush said. “He recognizes the inevitable: that the United States of America and those who long for peace in Iraq, the Iraqi citizens, will not tolerate thugs and killers in their midst,” he said.
Iraqi soldiers and police are also becoming more capable, the president said.
“Our military commander tells me that these gains are making possible what I call ‘return on success,’” he said. “That means we're slowly bringing some of our troops home; and now we're doing it from a position of strength.”
The strategy recognizes that once Iraqis feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods, jobs and opportunities follow. “That is starting to happen,” Bush said.
The president pointed out that there are still challenges in Iraq. “Corruption remains a problem, unemployment remains high, and the improvements we are seeing in the Iraqi economy are not uniform across the country,” he said. “But overall, the Iraqi economy is growing at a strong rate.”
The people of Iraq are reclaiming a normal society, the president said.
“When Iraqis don't have to fear the terrorists, they have a chance to build better lives for themselves,” he said. “You must understand an Iraqi mom wants her child to grow up in peace just like an American mom does.”
This is a fight for freedom, Bush said. The Iraqis have proven they want freedom; they have proven they want stability.
“It's in our interest we help them succeed,” he said. “It's in our interest we help freedom prevail. It's in our interest we deny safe haven to killers who at one time killed us in America. It's in our interest to show the world that we've got the courage and the determination necessary to spread the foundation for peace, and that is what we're here to honor today.”
The U.S. Army has been key to the progress in Iraq, Bush said. “Once again, American soldiers have shown the world why our military is the finest fighting force on earth,” he said. “And now that legacy falls to the proud graduates today. Earlier generations of soldiers from Fort Jackson made their way to Europe and liberated a continent from tyranny.
“Today a new generation is following in their noble tradition,” he continued. “And one day people will speak of your achievements in Baqouba and Baghdad the way we now speak of Normandy and the Bulge.”