CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (Army News Service, Jan. 14, 2008) - President George W. Bush made a stop in Kuwait Saturday during his Middle East tour to meet with key U.S. leaders and speak to deployed service members.

Bush met with U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq, to discuss the situation in Iraq as well as the progress made and the challenges ahead.

"We discussed the fact that whatever happens in Iraq impacts everything else in the entire region," Bush said. He then discussed the changes and improvements that came from the troop surge and the strategy change in Iraq over the last year.

"Iraq is now a different place from one year ago," Bush said. "Much hard work remains, but levels of violence are significantly reduced. Hope is returning to Baghdad and hope is returning to towns and villages throughout the country."

Bush also spoke about how the Iraqis are taking control of their own government and coming together despite religious differences to build a common future and diminish violence.

In his statement, Bush spoke about U.S. forces returning home due to the changes in Iraq. He said that any additional troop reduction will be based on Gen. Petraeus' recommendations, based on the conditions on the ground in Iraq.

"I have believed all along that if people are given a chance to live in a free society they will do the hard work necessary to live in a free society," he said.

He also spoke about the importance of the concerned citizen groups who are stepping up to help provide local security in addition to the Iraqi surge of 100,000 local police and Iraqi troops.

"We must do all we can to ensure 2008 brings even greater progress for Iraq's young democracy. Long-term success in Iraq is vital to our friends here in the region and to America's national security" Bush said. "In a place where Saddam Hussein once menaced the world, the new U.S., Iraqi relationship will strengthen a democracy that serves its people, fights terrorists and serves as a beacon of freedom for millions across the Middle East."

Bush then moved on to speak with several thousand service members gathered at the Zone 6 stage on Camp Arifjan. He encouraged the service members to continue their work in support of both Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. During his speech he thanked Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace, commander, Third Army/U.S. Army Central, and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians serving for their hard work in completing the support and logistical mission in Kuwait.

"In the long term, the best way to defeat the ideology of hate is one with an ideology of hope and that is one with liberty at its fundamental core," Bush said. The assembled troops responded with a loud, "hooah."

"It's hard work but it is necessary work," he continued. "I thank you for what you are doing. There is no doubt in my mind that when the history is written, the final page will say, 'Victory was achieved by the United States of America for the good of the world.'"

Following the speech to the troops, Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker spoke to media about the meeting they had with the president. They highlighted the importance of political reconciliation in Iraq.

"Reconciliation is more than national legislation," Crocker said. "It's also what we are seeing in provinces around the country. There is more cross-sectarian political activity. As security improves and some of the tensions reduce we are seeing more political activity and more steps toward reconciliation. There is still a long way to go. We are seeing some encouraging steps now at both the national and local levels."

Petraeus said troop withdrawals would depend on whether things get better, stay the same or decline as U.S. troops pull out and Iraqi Security Forces take over. He said that Iraqi citizens and security forces are preparing to take on the security of their own country, and that recommendations for continued withdrawal will be based on the situation in the country.

(Staff Sgt. Jacob A. McDonald serves with the 50th Public Affairs Detachment.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16