This month will mark the three-year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which liberated Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. As this milestone approaches, I will be giving a series of speeches to update the American people on our strategy for victory in Iraq. I will discuss the progress we are making, the lessons we've learned from our experiences, and how we're fixing what has not worked.
On Monday, I will give the first of these speeches, focusing on the security element of our strategy: the task of defeating the terrorists and training Iraqi security forces so they can take the lead in the fight and defend their own democracy.
The Iraqi security forces have made great strides in the past year, and they performed well after the recent bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This mosque is one of Shia Islam's holiest sites, and after it was bombed, bands of armed militia began exacting revenge, with reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques and random violence that took the lives of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.
Immediately after the attack, Iraq's leaders came together and acted to restore calm and end the violence. They deployed Iraqi security forces to Baghdad and other areas threatened by violence. These forces moved rapidly and effectively to protect religious sites, enforce a curfew, and re-establish civil order where necessary. We commend them for their good work.
The situation in Iraq is still tense. Reports of kidnappings and executions are being taken very seriously. The Iraqi government has made clear that such violent attacks cannot be tolerated. The vast majority of Iraqis have shown they want a future of freedom and peace.
By their response over the past two weeks and their participation in three successful elections last year, the Iraqi people have made clear they will not let a violent minority take that future away by tearing the country apart. And the Iraqi security forces have shown that they are capable of rising above sectarian divisions to protect the unity of a free Iraq.
The effective performance of the Iraqi security forces during this crisis showed that our hard work to build up and train these forces is paying off. In the coming months, we will help prepare more Iraqi battalions to take the lead in battle, and Iraqi forces will assume responsibility over more territory. Our goal is to have the Iraqis control more territory than the Coalition forces by the end of this year. And as Iraqis assume responsibility over more territory, this frees American and Coalition forces to concentrate on hunting down high-value targets like the terrorist Zarqawi and his associates.
As we take the fight to the terrorists, they realize they cannot defeat us directly in battle, so they have resorted to brutal attacks against innocent Iraqis and American forces using improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. IEDs are homemade bombs that can be hidden in cars or by the side of a road and detonated remotely, using everyday devices like garage door openers and cordless phones.
These weapons are now the principal threat to our troops and to the future of a free Iraq — and to defeat this threat, my Administration has established a new high-level command at the Department of Defense, led by retired four-star General Montgomery Meigs. This weekend, General Meigs is briefing me at the White House on our plan to defeat the threat of IEDs.
We're harnessing every available resource, the ingenuity of our best scientists and engineers, and the determination of our military to defeat this threat — and we're not going to rest until this danger to our troops has been removed.
In the coming days, there will be considerable reflection on the removal of Saddam Hussein from power and our remaining mission in Iraq. The last three years have tested our resolve. The fighting has been tough. The enemy we face has proved to be brutal and relentless. We have changed our approach in many areas to reflect the hard realities on the ground. And the sacrifice being made by our young men and women who wear the uniform has been heartening and inspiring.
Amid the daily news of car bombs and kidnappings and brutal killings, I can understand why many of our fellow citizens are now wondering if the entire mission was worth it. I strongly believe our country is better off with Saddam Hussein out of power. Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was an enemy of America who shot at our airplanes, had a history of pursuing and using weapons of mass destruction, threatened and invaded his neighbors, ordered the death of thousands of his citizens, and supported terrorism.
After the liberation of the Iraqi people, Al Qaeda and their affiliates have made Iraq the central front on the War on Terror. By helping the Iraqi people build a free and representative government, we will deny the terrorists a safe haven to plan attacks against America.
The security of our country is directly linked to the liberty of the Iraqi people. This will require more difficult days of fighting and sacrifice, yet I am confident that our strategy will result in victory, and then our troops can come home with the honor they have earned.
Thank you for listening.