Iraqi forces are beginning to take responsiblity for providing security to the Iraqi people. Last year, there were only a handful of Iraqi battalions ready for combat. "Now," says President George W. Bush, "there are more than one-hundred-twenty-five Iraqi army and police combat battalions in the fight against the terrorists":
"Of these, more than seventy Iraqi battalions are fighting side-by-side with coalition forces, and more than fifty others are taking the lead in the fight. So far, in December, there have been more than nine-hundred combat operations in Iraq at the company level or above, and seventy-five percent of these involved Iraqi security forces either in the lead or fighting side-by-side with our coalition."
With improved security, says Mr. Bush, "Many cities like Mosul and Najaf are coming back to life, and Iraq's economy is growing":
"Our goal in Iraq has not changed: a free and democratic Iraq. I strongly believe a democratic Iraq is a crucial part of our strategy to defeat the terrorists, because only democracy can bring freedom and reconciliation to Iraq, and peace to this troubled part of the world."
The Iraqi people "see their freedom increasingly being defended by their own soldiers and police instead of foreign forces," says Mr. Bush. "And they see that freedom is bringing opportunity and a better life":
"The Iraqis still face many challenges, including security, and reconstruction, and economic freedom. But they are building a strong democracy that can handle these challenges and that will be a model for the Middle East. Freedom in Iraq will inspire reformers from Damascus to Tehran. This new Iraq shares our deepest values, and it shares our most determined enemies."
Mr. Bush says, "The story of freedom has just begun in the Middle East. And when the history of these days is written," he says, "it will tell how America once again defended its own freedom by using liberty to transform nations from bitter foes to strong allies."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.