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Bush On Iraq Strategy

At a press conference in Washington D.C., President George W. Bush said that the strategy of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is focused on applying sustained military pressure to root out extremist networks in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and surrounding areas:

"Our top priority is to help the Iraqis protect their population. So we have launched an offensive in and around Baghdad to go after extremists, to buy more time for Iraqi forces to develop, and to help normal life and civil society take root in communities and neighborhoods throughout the country. We're helping enhance the size, capabilities, and effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces so the Iraqis can take over the defense of their own country. We're helping the Iraqis take back their neighborhoods from the extremists."

Progress is being made and Iraqis themselves are turning against the extremists. In Anbar province, Sunni tribes that were once fighting alongside al Qaida in Iraq have joined coalition forces against them. The coalition, said Mr. Bush, is working to replicate the success in Anbar and other parts of the country. President Bush said the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq wants to help the Iraqis strengthen their government so that it can function in all circumstances. Coalition strategy, he said, also seeks to open space for Iraq's political leaders to advance the process of national reconciliation:

"I believe we can succeed in Iraq, and I know we must. So we're working to defeat al Qaida and other extremists, and aid the rise of an Iraqi government that can protect its people, deliver basic services, and be an ally in the war against these extremists and radicals."

Helping consolidate the Iraqi government, said President Bush, will create the conditions that would allow U.S. troops to begin returning home while securing long-term U.S. national interests in Iraq and in the region.