President George W. Bush hailed as a major achievement Monday the turnover of control Iraq's Anbar province to Iraqi forces, saying the once-violent region had been "transformed and reclaimed by the Iraqi people."
"Iraqi forces will now take the lead in security operations in Anbar, with American troops moving into an overwatch role," Bush said in a statement released by the White House. "Not long ago, Anbar was one of the most dangerous provinces in Iraq" and Al Qaeda 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 said that while Al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militants remain a threat in the region, scene of some of the bloodiest battles since the 2003 invasion, the U.S. and multinational forces "continue to stand with the Iraqis as they work to defeat these enemies and build a democracy in the heart of the Middle East. The success of Iraq will make the American people more secure and help yield the peace we all desire."
Bush said that Anbar has now been "transformed and reclaimed by the Iraqi people. 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."