President George W. Bush says recent steps taken by the Iraqi government and U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq are beginning to bear fruit.
The United States is sending an additional twenty-eight thousand troops to Baghdad, half of which have already arrived. The Iraqi military has deployed nine additional battalions in the Iraqi capital. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has appointed an Iraqi military commander for Baghdad who is working closely with the U.S.-led coalition forces. Iraqi leaders have also pledged that there will be no safe haven for those who commit violence.
The Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition forces, said Mr. Bush, have set up checkpoints and joint security stations throughout Baghdad:
"American forces are now deployed twenty-four hours [a day] in these neighborhoods, and guess what's happening. The Iraqi people are beginning to gain confidence. Support from the Iraqi people can be measured by the tips our people get. In other words, people saying, so-and-so is over here; a cache of weapons over there. And we're using the tips to aggressively pursue. . . .In other words, we're after killers. . . .We're saying, if you're trying to destabilize this young democracy, the Iraqis, with coalition help, are coming after you."
U.S.-led coalition forces recently captured a Shiite extremist leader and his associates who were implicated in the kidnapping and murder of five U.S. soldiers in Karbala. U.S.-led coalition forces also captured the head of an al Qaida network responsible for car bombings in eastern Baghdad. These and other successful missions targeting terrorists and extremists in Iraq, said President Bush, "are only the opening salvos in what is going to be a sustained effort."
But ultimately, Mr. Bush said, "the Iraqis are going to have to defend themselves":
"Ultimately, it is their responsibility. That's what the twelve million people who voted want."
The U.S.-led coalition forces, said President Bush, can give the Iraqi government and its military and security forces "some breathing space so they can gain their confidence and have the capabilities necessary" to protect their country.