By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 1, 2008 - Iraqi civilian authorities today assumed responsibility for security in Iraq's Anbar province, where Iraqi forces will now have the lead in security operations, President Bush said in a statement released by the White House. "Not long ago, Anbar was one of the most dangerous provinces in Iraq," Bush said "Al Qaeda was in control of almost every major population center, and its leaders intended to turn Anbar province into a safe haven from which to plan and launch further attacks against Iraqis and others in the region, as well as here at home."
Bush pointed out that the terrorists' methods turned the people of Anbar against them, denying them use of the province as a sanctuary.
"Today, Anbar is no longer lost to al Qaeda – it is al Qaeda that lost Anbar. Iraqis – like countless other Muslims across the world – witnessed al Qaeda's brutality first-hand and rejected it," Bush said. "As a result, Anbar has been transformed and reclaimed by the Iraqi people."
The president said success against the terrorists in Anbar came about through a collaboration between various groups working for security. "This achievement is a credit to the courage of our troops, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the brave tribes and other civilians from Anbar who worked alongside them," he said.
Anbar is the 11th of Iraq's18 provinces to come under provincial Iraqi control. Challenges remain in the country, Bush said, but the U.S. will continue to support the Iraqi people as they confront the terrorists and criminal in their midst.
"Al Qaeda and Iranian-backed special groups remain a threat, but the United States and the nations of Multi-National Forces-Iraq continue to stand with the Iraqis as they work to defeat these enemies and build a democracy in the heart of the Middle East," he said.
The president said that defeating the terrorists in Iraq will ultimately lead to improved security for the United States.
"The success of Iraq will make the American people more secure and help yield the peace we all desire," he said.