Continued Progress In Iraq Allows "Return On Success"
President Bush Calls On Congress To Provide Our Troops On The Ground With The Funding They Need To Succeed
Tonight, President Bush will call on Congress to show continued support for our troops as they make significant gains in Iraq. The President's strategy in Iraq has put us on the path to success. While much work remains, U.S. and Iraqi troops working together have achieved significant results, violence is down dramatically, and some political progress is being made.
- The U.S. strategy in Iraq is guided by the principle of "return on success" – and as we are seeing more success in Iraq, some of our forces are returning home and not being replaced. One Army brigade combat team and a Marine Expeditionary Unit have already returned from Iraq without replacement, and in the coming months, four additional Army brigades and two more Marine battalions will return.
- President Bush urges Congress to meet its responsibilities to the brave men and women serving in Iraq by fully funding our troops. The President appreciates Congress passing a down payment on funding for our troops without imposing artificial conditions. Now, Congress needs to pass the remainder of this funding so our troops get the funding they need as soon as possible to do the job they have been asked to do. No matter how some leaders here in Washington, D.C. feel about the war, our troops deserve their full support.
- The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States – we must not turn our backs on the hard-won progress being made. If we were to be driven out of Iraq, extremists of all strains would be emboldened, and al Qaeda could find new recruits and new sanctuaries. A failed Iraq could also increase the likelihood that our forces would someday have to return and confront extremists even more entrenched and even more deadly. By contrast, a free Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven and serve as a partner in the fight against terrorism.
Violence In Iraq Has Decreased Dramatically In The Past Year
The surge is achieving its primary aims of improving population security in Baghdad and reversing the cycle of sectarian violence that plagued Iraq in 2006. Although there is much more work to be done, security has improved considerably since General Petraeus began implementing the strategy that became fully operational in mid-June. According to the U.S. military:
- Monthly attack levels have decreased 60 percent since June 2007 and are now at the same levels as early 2005 and some points of 2004.
- Civilian deaths are down approximately 75 percent since a year ago, dropping to a level not seen since the beginning of 2006.
- From January to December of 2007, ethno-sectarian attacks and deaths decreased over 90 percent in the Baghdad security districts.
- Coalition forces found and cleared approximately 6,956 weapons caches in 2007, well over twice the amount (2,662) cleared in 2006.
- Although al Qaeda in Iraq remains a dangerous threat, its capabilities are diminished.
- Over the past year, thousands of extremists in Iraq have been captured or killed, including hundreds of key al Qaeda leaders and operatives.
Iraqi Security Forces and Concerned Local Citizens groups continue to grow, develop capabilities, and provide more security for their country.
- Iraqi forces now have assumed responsibility for security in nine of 18 Iraqi provinces.
- Iraq's Security Forces grew by more than 100,000 in 2007 and now stand at more than 500,000.
Concerned Local Citizens (CLCs) continue to play a key role in the decreasing trends of violence and improving stability across Iraq.
- More than 130 different CLC groups are volunteering to support security in their neighborhoods, with more than 80,000 active members.
- More than 10,000 Iraqis from the original Anbar Awakening were hired and now serve in the Iraqi Security Forces.
- The Government of Iraq is committed to one day assuming fiscal and overall responsibility for CLCs and has begun structuring vocational training programs for CLCs who want to rejoin the civilian work force.
The U.S. Will Continue Working With Iraqi Leaders As They Build On Progress Toward Political Reconciliation
The government in Baghdad has not made progress as quickly as we would like on legislative issues, but the Council of Representatives has passed de-Baathification legislation and a pension law, and is sharing oil revenues with the provinces.
On November 26, Prime Minister Maliki and President Bush signed a shared statement of intent called the "Declaration of Principles" to enumerate common principles to frame our future relationship as two fully sovereign and independent states.
Significant bottom-up political progress is occurring at the local level in Iraq, where provincial governments continue to spend national revenue on reconstruction and many people are engaging in local politics. For example, the Mosul Airport recently reopened for commercial flights for the first time in 14 years after the Ninewa Provincial Council, Iraqi Ministries of Transportation and Finance, and the U.S. Department of State partnered to renovate the passenger terminal.
With improvements in security, we are also seeing improvements in important economic indicators.
- The central government of Iraq reached its 2007 target of $30.2 billion in budget revenue one month before the end of the year.
- The Government of Iraq recently completed early repayment of its outstanding obligations to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and reached a new Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF.
- Cell phone penetration has gone from almost zero prior to 2003 to over eight million today.
- The Government of Iraq has begun the process of accession to the World Trade Organization.
- Inflation is currently at around 20 percent year-on-year, down from a peak of 77 percent in August 2006.
Over the past year, we have doubled the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Iraq – there are now 24 of these teams active in all 18 Iraqi provinces. Many of these teams are "embedded" PRTs, created as part of the President's new strategy. These civilian-led teams are working together with Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) or Marine regiments to support the military surge in Anbar Province and the greater Baghdad area.
- PRTs are playing a vital role in sustaining the bottom-up political progress that is laying the groundwork for national reconciliation in Iraq. For example, the Kirkuk PRT last year helped broker a settlement that brought Sunnis back into the Provincial Council.
PRTs are making significant gains working with the Iraqi people to achieve economic progress. In 2007, achievements by embedded PRTs (ePRTs) established after the beginning of the troop surge include a regional security summit in Taji sponsored by an ePRT located in Baghdad and facilitated by a Brigade from the 1st Cavalry Division, and the opening of the Fallujah Business Development Center in Anbar with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Community Stabilization Program (CSP).