The White House, Office of the Press Secretary
March 27, 2008
Achieving Political and Economic Progress in Iraq
President Bush Discusses Ways The Surge Is Helping Iraqis Reclaim Security And Restart Political And Economic Life
Today, President Bush visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force and discussed the political and economic changes currently taking place in Iraq. Last year, the President ordered 30,000 additional soldiers and Marines into Iraq, and gave them a new mission, to focus on protecting the Iraqi people, and to hold the gains that had been made. The other goal of the surge was to open up space for political and economic progress after security returned. So the U.S. deployed additional civilian experts and more than doubled the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, with a mission to ensure the security gains were followed by improvements in daily life.
The surge is yielding major changes in Iraqi political life. With security improving, local citizens have restarted the political process in neighborhoods, cities, and provinces. Grassroots movements have sprung up all around the country. These groups of citizens are determined to protect their communities, they are determined to fight extremism, and they increasingly participate in civic life.
The U.S. more than doubled the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Karbala PRT helped local residents establish a women's center to provide education and promote equality.
The improvements in security resulting from the surge are enabling Iraqis to make progress on their economy. Since the surge began:
Iraq's Government Has Stepped Forward To Meet More Of Its Own Expenses
Early in the war, the U.S. funded most of the large-scale reconstruction projects in Iraq. Now the U.S. is focusing on encouraging entrepreneurship. The Iraqi government is stepping up on reconstruction projects. They have outspent the U.S. in recent budget 11 to one, and soon we expect the Iraqis will cover 100 percent of these expenses.
Iraq wants to solidify its relationship with the United States. Last year, Iraqi leaders requested to form a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S. This partnership would help assure Iraqis that political and economic and security cooperation between the nations will endure. This partnership would also ensure protections for American troops when the U.N. mandate for Multi-National Forces in Iraq expires this December. This partnership would not bind future President's to specific troop levels. This partnership would not establish permanent bases in Iraq.
The surge is helping give Iraq's leaders the confidence to expand their international engagement.
Much of the world is increasing its commitment to Iraq. The United Kingdom, Italy, and South Korea are leading PRTs in Iraq. The United Nations is playing an expanded role in Iraq, and will help prepare for this year's provincial elections.
The Progress In Iraq Is Real, It's Substantive, But It's Reversible
Helping Iraqis defeat their enemies and build a free society would be a strategic victory that would resound far beyond Iraq's borders. If al Qaeda is defeated in Iraq after all the resources it has poured into the battle there, it will be a powerful blow against the global terrorist movement. If Iran is turned back in its attempt to gain undue influence over Iraq, it will be a setback to its ambitions to dominate the region. If people across the Middle East see freedom prevail in multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian Iraq, it will mark a decisive break from the long reign of tyranny in that region. And if the Middle East grows in freedom and prosperity, the appeal of extremism will decline, the prospects of peace will advance, and the American people will be safer here at home.
Retreating from Iraq would carry enormous strategic costs for the United States. It would increase the likelihood that al Qaeda would gain safe havens that they could use to attack us here at home. It would be a propaganda victory of colossal proportions for the global terrorist movement, which would gain new funds, and find new recruits, and conclude that the way to defeat America is to bleed us into submission. It would signal to Iran that we were not serious about confronting its efforts to impose its will on the region. It would signal to people across the Middle East that the United States cannot be trusted to keep its word. A defeat in Iraq would have consequences far beyond that country – and they would be felt by Americans here at home.
Iraq Is Strengthening Its Relationship With Other Nations
Iraq Has Great Economic Potential
Civil Society Is Beginning To Grow In Iraq