By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
March 18, 2008 - The United States intends to complete the mission in Iraq, Vice President Richard B. Cheney told troops there today, on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom's fifth anniversary. On the second day of a 10-day surprise visit to Iraq, the vice president vowed commitment to what he characterized as an ideological fight against violent extremists who prefer tyranny to democracy.
"Understanding all the dangers of this new era, we have no intention of abandoning our friends, or allowing this country of 170,000 square miles to become a staging area for further attacks against Americans," Cheney told servicemembers at Balad Air Base.
"All Americans can be certain: We intend to complete the mission, so that another generation of Americans doesn't have to come back here and do it again," he said.
On his second tour of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, Cheney today noted significant security and governmental progress since his last visit, which came on the heels of a 33,000-troop surge designed to tamp down violence in Iraq and help prepare Iraq's national forces to maintain security.
The deployment of the five additional combat brigades, which completed this time last year, coupled with an invigorated counterinsurgency effort has been considered by officials to be a largely successful U.S. strategic military shift.
"We made a surge in operations, and the results are now clear: more effective raids to root out enemies; better and more accurate intelligence information from the locals; and higher hopes for the future from the Iraqi people," Cheney said. "And across this country, the more that Iraqis have gotten to know Americans -- the nature of our intentions, and the character of our soldiers -- the better they've felt about the United States of America."
The vice president bestowed "greetings from home" and "good wishes" from President Bush, and praised troops for their distinguished work on one of the biggest and busiest U.S. bases in the country.
"I want you to know that we appreciate you and your comrades, that we never take you for granted, that we're inspired by the tremendous work you've done on this deployment," he said. "On the president's behalf, I want to thank all of you for being part of an extraordinary American team here in Iraq."
Cheney noted that servicemembers and military families alike -- especially during times of war -- understand the sacrifices that result from placing "service above self." "So the next time you email your family members, please pass along my thanks to them, as well," he added.
Tomorrow marks the five-year anniversary of when the U.S. invaded Iraq to "liberate this country from tyranny," Cheney noted. "And we promised that we would stand by the Iraqi people as they built free institutions and took charge of their own destiny once again," he said, adding that troops' efforts provide the best chance for long-term Middle East stability.
"That war is not yet won -- but the day will come when terrorists and terror states are no longer a strategic threat to America," Cheney continued. "And you, as veterans of this fight, will always be honored and respected for what you did to defend our country, and to defeat freedom's enemies."