President Bush Discusses Iraq Progress
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PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The elections in January are just the beginning of a process, and it’s important for the American people to understand that.
As the Iraqi people take these important steps on the path to democracy, the enemies of freedom know exactly what is at stake. They know that a democratic Iraq will be a decisive blow to their ambitions because free people will never choose to live in tyranny.
And so the terrorists will attempt to delay the elections, to intimidate people in their country, to disrupt the democratic process in any way they can.
No one can predict every turn in the months ahead, and I certainly don’t expect the process to be trouble-free. Yet I am confident of the result.
I’m confident the terrorists will fail, the elections will go forward and Iraq will be a democracy that reflects the values and traditions of its people. I’ll be glad to answer some questions.
DAVID GREGORY: A year ago we were in this room, almost to the day, and you were heralding the capture of Saddam Hussein and announcing the end of Baathist tyranny in Iraq.
A year later, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate said, after returning from Iraq, talking about Iraqi troops that “the raw material is lacking in the willpower and commitment after they receive military training.”
What’s going wrong?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah. Well, first let me talk about the Iraqi troops. The ultimate success in Iraq is for the Iraqis to secure their country.
Now, I would call the results mixed in terms of standing up Iraqi units who are willing to fight. There have been some cases where when the heat got on, they left the battlefield. That’s unacceptable.
Iraq will never secure itself if they have troops that, when the heat gets on, they leave the battlefield. I fully understand that. On the other hand, there were some really fine units in Fallujah, for example, in Najaf that did their duty.
And so the… our military trainers, our military leaders have analyzed what worked and what didn’t work. First of all, recruiting is strong.
The place where the generals told me that we need to do better is to make sure that there is a command structure that connects the soldier to the strategy in a better way, I guess is the best way to describe it.
CARL CANNON: Mr. President, 140,000 Americans are spending this Christmas in Iraq, as you know, some of them their second Christmas there. My question is, how long will those troops be there?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: That’s a very legitimate question, Carl, and it’s… I get asked that by family members I meet with, and people say, “How long do you think it will take?”
And my answer is, you know, we’d like to achieve our objective as quickly as possible. Again, I repeat we’re under no illusions that this Iraqi force is not ready to fight, en Toto — there are units that are, and that they believe they’ll have a command structure stood up pretty quickly, that the training is intense, that their recruitment is good, the equipping of troops is taking place.
So they’re optimistic that “as soon as possible” can be achieved.