PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Our coalition has a clear goal understood by all: To see the Iraqi people in charge of Iraq for the first time in generations. America's task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy; it is to give strength to a friend -- a free, representative government that serves its people and fights on their behalf. And the sooner this goal is achieved, the sooner our job will be done. There are five steps in our plan to help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom. The first of these steps will occur next month when our coalition will transfer full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens who will prepare the way for national elections.
On June 30, the coalition provisional authority will cease to exist and will not be replaced. The occupation will end and Iraqis will govern their own affairs. The United Nations special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, is now consulting with a broad spectrum of Iraqis to determine the composition of this interim government. The special envoy intends to put forward the names of interim government officials this week. This new government will be advised by a national council which will be chosen in July by Iraqis representing their country's diversity. This interim government will exercise full sovereignty until national elections are held. The June 30 transfer of sovereignty is an essential commitment of our strategy. Iraqis are proud people who resent foreign control of their affairs, just as we would.
After decades under the tyrant, they're also reluctant to trust authority. By keeping our promise on June 30, the coalition will demonstrate that we have no interest in occupation, and full sovereignty will give Iraqis a direct interest in the success of their own government. The second step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to help establish the stability and security that democracy requires. America will provide forces and support necessary for achieving these goals.
Our commanders had estimated that a troop level below 115,000 would be sufficient at this point in the conflict. Given the recent increase in violence, we'll maintain our troop level at the current 138,000 as long as necessary. Gen. Abizaid and other commanders in Iraq are constantly assessing the level of troops they need to fulfill the mission. If they need more troops, I will send them. Iraq's military police and border forces have begun to take on broader responsibilities. Eventually, they must be the primary defenders of Iraqi security as American and coalition forces are withdrawn. And we're helping them to prepare for this role. In some cases, the early performance of Iraqi forces fell short. Some refused orders to engage the enemy.
We've learned from these failures and we've taken steps to correct them. At my direction and with the support of Iraqi authorities, we are accelerating our program to help train Iraqis to defend their country. A new team of senior military officers is now assessing every unit in Iraq's security forces. After June 30, American and other forces will still have important duties. American military forces in Iraq will operate under American command as a part of a multinational force authorized by the United Nations. Iraq's new sovereign government will still face enormous security challenges, and our forces will be there to help.
The third step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to continue rebuilding that nation's infrastructure so that a free Iraq can quickly gain economic independence and a better quality of life. The fourth step in our plan is to enlist additional international support for Iraq's transition. At every stage, the United States has gone to the United Nations: To confront Saddam Hussein, to promise serious consequences for his actions, and to begin Iraqi reconstruction.
The fifth and most important step is free national elections to be held no later than next January. A United Nations team headed by Carina Perelli is now in Iraq, helping form an independent election commission that will oversee an orderly, accurate national election. In that election, the Iraqi people will choose a transitional national assembly -- the first freely elected, truly representative national governing body in Iraq's history.
Completing the five steps to Iraqi elected self-government will not be easy. There's likely to be more violence before the transfer of sovereignty and after the transfer of sovereignty. I sent American troops to Iraq to defend our security, not to stay as an occupying power. I sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, not to make them American. Iraqis will write their own history and find their own way. As they do, Iraqis can be certain, a free Iraq will always have a friend in the United States of America.