Iraq Surge Showing Results, President Bush Says

By David McKeeby
USINFO White House Correspondent

Washington – The surge of thousands more U.S. troops into key areas of Iraq is beginning to show results, according to President Bush.

“I'm encouraged and, more importantly, the people in Baghdad are encouraged by what we're seeing,” Bush said June 28 at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.  “Citizens are forming neighborhood watch groups.  Young Sunnis are signing up for the army and police.  Tribal sheikhs are joining the fight against al-Qaida. Many Shi’a are rejecting the militias.”

Following a comprehensive strategic review, the Bush administration announced “a new way forward” in January to help Iraq and give its parliament the time needed to pursue key reforms and political reconciliation among its Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish communities. (See related article.)

The centerpiece of the strategy, led by coalition commander General David Petraeus, is a “surge” of more than 21,500 U.S. combat troops tasked with supporting Iraqi efforts to clear neighborhoods of hostile insurgents, establish a continuous presence and work with local leaders to rebuild communities.

“The last of the reinforcements arrived in Iraq earlier this month,” Bush said.  “The full surge has begun.”

In Iraq’s southwestern Anbar province, Bush said, U.S. Marines have joined with local Sunni sheikhs to confront insurgents from al-Qaida in Iraq, who have sought to establish a regional stronghold in the area and launched a systematic campaign to assassinate opposing tribal elders.

Al-Qaida remains a dangerous presence in Anbar, but thanks to the Iraqi and coalition partnership, attacks are at a two-year low and a new police academy has opened to train local recruits to serve and protect their community, Bush said.

In Baghdad, Iraq, the newly deployed forces are leading a new offensive targeting insurgents operating in the capital and surrounding provinces, according to the president.

North of Baghdad, Iraqi and coalition forces are fighting block-by-block in Diyala to disrupt militant activity, Bush said.  In the west, they are intercepting foreign fighters infiltrating the border.  Along the Tigris River south of the capital, Bush said, forces are moving into territory controlled by insurgents and have seized weapons caches and bomb making materials.

“If we can clear these strongholds of al-Qaida and death squads, we can improve life for the citizens of the areas and inhibit the enemy's ability to strike within the capital.”

The next challenge, Bush said, would be to secure communities located along Sunni-Shiite “fault lines,” where extremist elements likely would try again to undermine the Iraqi government by staging new attacks to reignite sectarian violence.

Bush also highlighted the quiet but important role of provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs), which bring military and civilian experts to help local communities pursue reconciliation and help promote self-reliance.  Across Iraq, he said, PRTs are helping Iraqi judges to restore the rule of law, local governments to initiate rebuilding projects and create new jobs, and business leaders to encourage new economic development.

A transcript of Bush’s remarks and a related fact sheet are available on the White House Web site.

For more information, see Iraq Update.