Earlier this week, Prime Minister Allawi of Iraq authorized military operations to rid the city of Fallujah of Saddam holdouts and foreign terrorists. American Marines and soldiers, alongside Iraqi security forces, are on the offensive against the killers who have been using Fallujah as a base of operations for terrorist attacks, and who have held the local population in the grip of fear.
Fighting together, our forces have made significant progress in the last several days. They are taking back the city, clearing mosques of weapons and explosives stockpiled by insurgents, and restoring order for law-abiding citizens.
In the course of this operation, Iraqi troops have discovered new evidence of the enemy's brutality. An Iraqi general has described hostage slaughter houses, where terrorists have killed innocent victims and proudly recorded their barbaric crimes. The terrorists have shown once again the stakes of this struggle. They seek to spread fear and violence throughout Iraq, throughout the Broader Middle East and throughout the world, and they will fail. The terrorists will be defeated, Iraq will be free, and the world will be more secure. Our commitment to the success of democracy in Iraq is unshakable and we will prevail.
Ultimately, Iraq must be able to defend itself, and Iraqi security forces are taking increasing responsibility for their country's security. As we see in Fallujah, and as we saw in Najaf and elsewhere, Iraqi security forces are standing and fighting and risking their lives for the future of their nation. As terrorists have targeted these forces, still more brave Iraqis have come forward as volunteers. Today, nearly 115,000 trained and equipped Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel are serving their country. The Iraqi government is on track to meet its goal of fielding more than 200,000 security personnel by the end of next year.
In January, the Iraqi people will elect a transitional national assembly, which will draft a new constitution to prepare the way for the election of a permanent Iraqi government. The Iraqi people, like the people of Afghanistan before them, are embracing a democratic future, even in the face of threats and intimidation. Throughout the country, Iraqi men and women are registering to vote, political parties are forming, candidates for office are stepping forward.
International support for the Iraqi election is essential, and that support continues to grow. Military forces from some 30 nations are working alongside Iraqi forces, helping to establish stability and security. A U.N. team is providing critical technical support to Iraq's independent electoral commission. Other diplomatic personnel are helping the Iraqi people prepare for those elections, to be held on schedule in January.
As those elections draw near, the desperation of the killers will grow, and the violence could escalate. The success of democracy in Iraq would be a crushing blow to the forces of terror, and the terrorists know it. The defeat of terror in Iraq will set that nation on a course to lasting freedom, and will give hope to millions, and the Iraqi people know it. And a free, democratic Iraq will inspire reformers throughout the Middle East and make America more secure.
The United States and our allies have shown our determination to help Iraqis achieve their liberty. We will continue to stand by our friends, and we will finish the job.
Thank you for listening.