President Bush Speaks at the U.S. Naval Academy
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PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Your service is needed because our nation is engaged in a war that is being fought on many fronts, from the streets of western cities, the mountains of Afghanistan, the islands of Southeast Asia and the Horn of Africa. This war is going to take many turns. And the enemy must be defeated on every battlefield. Yet the terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity. And so we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war on terror.
As we fight the enemy in Iraq, every man and woman who volunteers to defend our nation deserves an unwavering commitment to the mission and a clear strategy for victory.
A clear strategy begins with a clear understanding of the enemy we face. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists. Against this adversary there is only one effective response. We will never back down. We will never give in and we will never accept anything less than complete victory.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: To achieve victory over such enemies, we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq. Americans should have a clear understanding of this strategy: how we look at the war, how we see the enemy, how we define victory and what we’re doing to achieve it.
Our strategy in Iraq has three elements. On the political side, we know that free societies are peaceful societies, so we’re helping the Iraqis build a free society with inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interest of all Iraqis.
We’re working with the Iraqis to help them engage those who can be persuaded to join the new Iraq and to marginalize those who never will.
On the security side, coalition and Iraqi security forces are on the offensive against the enemy — cleaning out areas controlled by the terrorists and Saddam loyalists, leaving Iraqi forces to hold territory taken from the enemy and following up with targeted reconstruction to help Iraqis rebuild their lives.
And on the economic side, we’re helping the Iraqis rebuild their infrastructure, reform their economy and build the prosperity that will give all Iraqis a stake in a free and peaceful Iraq.
Our goal is to train enough Iraqi forces so they can carry the fight. And this will take time and patience. And it’s worth the time and it’s worth the effort. Because Iraqis and Americans share a common enemy, and when that enemy is defeated in Iraq, Americans will be safer here at home.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The training of the Iraqi security forces is an enormous task and it always hasn’t gone smoothly. We all remember the reports of some Iraqi security forces running from the fight more than a year ago. Yet in the past year, Iraqi forces have been made real progress.
At this time last year there were only a handful of Iraqi battalions ready for combat. Now there are over 120 Iraqi army and police combat battalions in the fight against terrorists typically comprised of between 350 and 800 Iraqi forces. Of these, about 80 Iraqi battalions are fighting side by side with coalition forces and about 40 others are taking the lead in the fight. As the Iraqi security forces stand up, coalition forces can stand down.
And when our mission of defeating the terrorists in Iraq is complete, our troops will return home to a proud nation.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: My commanders tell me that as Iraqi forces become more capable, the mission of our forces in Iraq will continue to change. We will continue to shift from providing security and conducting operations against the enemy nationwide to conducting more specialized operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists.
We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we operate and conduct fewer patrols and convoys. As the Iraqi forces gain experience and the political process advances, we will be able to decrease our troop levels in Iraq without losing our capability to defeat the terrorists. These decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders, not by artificial timetables shed set by politicians in Washington.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Some critics continue to assert that we have no plan in Iraq except to, quote, stay the course. If by “stay the course,” they mean we will not allow the terrorists to break our will, they’re right. If by “stay the course” they mean we will not permit al-Qaida to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven for terrorism and a launching pad for attacks on America, they’re right as well.
If by “stay the course” they mean we’re not learning from our experiences or adjusting our tactics to meet the challenges on the ground, then they’re flat wrong.