During 2006, the Iraqi government will take more responsibility for security. "A year ago, there was only a handful of Iraqi army and police battalions ready for combat," says President George W. Bush. Now, he says, "there are more than one-hundred":
"That's important progress, and it's an important part of our strategy to win in Iraq. And as those forces become more battle-hardened and take the lead, we're going to see continued confidence in the Iraqi people of the Iraqis being able to defend themselves."
Mr. Bush says part of the U.S.-led coalition's strategy "is not only to have a competent Iraqi army, but police forces that are capable of earning the confidence of the Iraqi citizens":
"We're training Iraqi police with a program that has been effective with the Iraqi army. One reason why these Iraqi [army] units are better able to take the lead is because they've worked side-by-side with American specialists and experts, some of our best troops. So we're going to embed these type of soldiers with the Iraqi police forces, as well. The coalition teams will go in the field with the police, they'll provide real-time advice and important assistance on patrol and during operations."
While the coalition trains Iraqi army units and police officers, says Mr. Bush, the hunt for Abu Masab al-Zarqawi and other al-Qaida terrorists will continue:
"Al-Qaida thinks they can use Iraq as a safe haven from which to launch attacks. That's their stated objective. . . .They've said, let's drive America out of Iraq so we can use Iraq as a safe haven. We're going to train Iraqis, we'll train their army and train their police, and at the same time, we've got some of the finest soldiers ever on the hunt to bring Zarqawi and his buddies to justice."
In Iraq during the coming year, "There will still be violence," says Mr. Bush. But, he says, "Those who want to stop the progress of freedom are becoming more and more marginalized."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.