Helping establish stability and security
"The second step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to help establish the stability and security that democracy requires.
"Coalition forces and the Iraqi people have the same enemies: the terrorists, illegal militia and Saddam loyalists who stand between the Iraqi people and their future as a free nation. Working as allies, we will defend Iraq and defeat these enemies.
"America will provide forces and support necessary for achieving these goals.
"Our commanders had estimated that a troop level below 115,000 would be sufficient at this point in the conflict. Given the recent increase in violence, we will maintain our troop level at the current 138,000 as long as necessary.
"This has required extended duty for the 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment -- 20,000 men and women who were scheduled to leave Iraq in April. Our nation appreciates their hard work and sacrifice, and they can know that they will be heading home soon.
"General Abizaid and other commanders in Iraq are constantly assessing the level of troops they need to fulfill the mission. If they need more troops, I will send them. The mission of our forces in Iraq is demanding and dangerous. Our troops are showing exceptional skill and courage. I thank them for their sacrifices and their duty. In the city of Fallujah there has been considerable violence by Saddam loyalists and foreign fighters, including the murder of four American contractors. American soldiers and Marines could have used overwhelming force.
"Our commanders, however, consulted with Iraq's governing council and local officials and determined that massive strikes against the enemy would alienate the local population and increase support for the insurgency.
"So we have pursued a different approach. We're making security a shared responsibility in Fallujah. Coalition commanders have worked with local leaders to create an all-Iraqi security force, which is now patrolling the city.
"Our soldiers and Marines will continue to disrupt enemy attacks on our supply routes, conduct joint patrols with Iraqis to destroy bomb factories and safe houses, and kill or capture any enemy. We want Iraqi forces to gain experience and confidence in dealing with their country's enemies. We want the Iraqi people to know that we trust their growing capabilities, even as we help build them.
"At the same time, Fallujah must cease to be a sanctuary for the enemy. And those responsible for terrorism will be held to account.
"In the cities of Najaf and Karbala and Kufa, most of the violence has been decided by a young radical cleric who commands an illegal militia. These enemies have been hiding behind an innocent civilian population, storing arms and ammunition in mosques and launching attacks from holy shrines.
"Our soldiers have treated religious sites with respect, while systematically dismantling the illegal militia.
"We're also seeing Iraqis themselves take more responsibility for restoring order. In recent weeks, Iraqi forces have ejected elements of this militia from the governor's office in Najaf.
"Yesterday, an elite Iraqi unit cleared out a weapons cache from a large mosque in Kufa. Respected Shia leaders have called on the militia to withdraw from these towns. Ordinary Iraqis have marched in protest against the militants. As challenges rise in Fallujah, Najaf and elsewhere, the tactics of our military will be flexible.
"Commanders on the ground will pay close attention to local conditions and we will do all that is necessary by measured force or overwhelming force to achieve a stable Iraq.
"Iraq's military police and border forces have begun to take on broader responsibilities. Eventually, they must be the primary defenders of Iraqi security as American and coalition forces are withdrawn. And we're helping them to prepare for this role.
"In some cases, the early performance of Iraqi forces fell short. Some refused orders to engage the enemy. We've learned from these failures and we've taken steps to correct them.
"Successful fighting units need a sense of cohesion so we've lengthened and intensified their training. Successful units need to know they are fighting for the future of their own country, not for any occupying power. So we are ensuring that Iraqi forces serve under an Iraqi chain of command. Successful fighting units need the best possible leadership. So we improved the vetting and training of Iraqi officers and senior enlisted men.
"At my direction and with the support of Iraqi authorities, we are accelerating our program to help train Iraqis to defend their country.
"A new team of senior military officers is now assessing every unit in Iraq's security forces. I've asked this team to oversee the training of a force of 260,000 Iraqi soldiers, police and other security personnel. Five Iraqi army battalions are in the field now, with another eight battalions to join them by July 1st.
"The eventual goal is an Iraqi army of 35,000 soldiers in 27 battalions fully prepared to defend their country.
"After June 30th, American and other forces will still have important duties. American military forces in Iraq will operate under American command as a part of a multinational force authorized by the United Nations.
"Iraq's new sovereign government will still face enormous security challenges and our forces will be there to help."
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