By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 6, 2008 - The war in Iraq isn't over, but a successful end is in sight, thanks to hard work between the United States and Iraq, President George W. Bush said in his weekly radio address today. "Earlier this week, Iraq's Presidency Council approved two landmark agreements that will solidify Iraq's democratic gains, affirm its sovereignty, and put its relations with the United States on a strong and steady footing," he said. "The first agreement that America and Iraq have signed is called a strategic framework agreement."
This pact sets out a common vision for U.S.-Iraqi relations in the years ahead, he said. Under this agreement, the two nations will work together to bring greater stability to Iraq and the region. That will include working to promote stability in the region through trade and investment as well as supporting Iraq's leaders and citizens.
"Only a few years ago, such an agreement was unimaginable," Bush said. "Terrorists were seizing new ground and using violence to divide the Iraqi people along sectarian lines and the nation was nearing the point of political collapse and civil war. Today, violence is down dramatically. The Iraqi military is growing in capability, taking the lead in the fight against the extremists, and working across sectarian lines.
"There is hope in the eyes of young Iraqis for the first time in many years," he added.
The second agreement, a status of forces agreement, has the primary purpose of ensuring the protection of U.S. troops and Defense Department civilians as Iraq begins to exercise greater sovereignty.
"It [also] lays out a framework for the withdrawal of American forces in Iraq," Bush said. "This withdrawal will take place in two stages."
The first stage will occur next year, when Iraqi forces assume the lead for security operations in all major population centers, while U.S. combat forces move out of Iraqi cities and into an overwatch role, Bush said. After this transition has occurred, the drawdown of American forces will continue to the second stage, with all U.S. forces returning home from Iraq by the end of 2011.
Bush acknowledged early differences of opinion about the initial decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power and the subsequent conduct of the war. But as the situation becomes more and more positive, he said, the country has an opportunity to adopt a new perspective.
"Americans should be able to agree that it is in our nation's strategic and moral interests to support the free and democratic Iraq that is emerging in the heart of the Middle East," he said.
The president also acknowledged the sacrifices made to reach this point, including long separations from friends and family, and for many, the ultimate sacrifice.
"Throughout the past eight years, I've seen the tremendous talent and courage of those who wear the uniform," Bush said. "Their efforts have overthrown tyrants, made our nation safer, put terrorists on the run, and opened the door to liberty for more than 50 million people.
"Now, thanks to their work in Iraq and the courage of the Iraqi people, a hopeful new era is dawning for their democracy and ours," he said.
Bush also conveyed his appreciation for the American people's sacrifices.
"The battle in Iraq has required a large amount of time and a large amount of money," he said.
Bush added that he would attend the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia this afternoon, and said he was looking forward to spending time with "brave men and women of the United States military."