Progress in Afghanistan and Iraq
The East Room
The White House
July 1, 2003
2:00 P.M. EDT
Please be seated. (Applause.) Welcome. Thank you all very much. Welcome to
the White House. We're joined today by 30 men and women who have chosen to
reenlist in the United States Armed Forces. Each of them decided years ago
to serve and defend our country. Today they reaffirm their commitment and
take the oath again.
Like many thousands of other soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen
and Marines who will re-enlist this year, these men and women are answering
the highest call of citizenship. They have stood between the American people
and the dangers of the world -- and we are glad they are staying on duty.
I want to thank Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, for joining
us, and members of the defense team. I want to thank Richard Myers, Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs; and Pete Pace, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
I want to thank James Roche, the Secretary of the Air Force; Les Brownlee,
the Acting Secretary of the Army; HT Johnson, the Acting Secretary of the
Navy, for being with us today.
I appreciate Admiral Vernon Clark, the Chief of Naval Operation for being
here; General Michael W. Hagee, the Commandant of the Marine Corps; General
John M. Keane, Acting Chief of Staff for the Army. I appreciate Terry D.
Scott, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, for being with us today; John
L. Estrada, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps; Frank A. Welch, Master Chief
Petty Officer of the Coast Guard; members of the Armed Forces and our fellow
Before the draft ended on July 1st, 1973, generations of men entered military
service by the decision of others. And during two world wars, and in Korea,
and in Vietnam, they served nobly and they served well. Yet in the past 30
years, we have seen the great advantages of a military in which all serve
by their own decision. Our country's all-volunteer force attracts idealistic
and committed young Americans. They stay in service longer because they have
chosen the military life. The result is a military with the highest levels
of training, experience, motivation, and professionalism.
The military life is rewarding. Yet, even at its best, that life is difficult,
often involving separation and danger. Those who willingly make these sacrifices,
and the families who share their hardships, have the respect and the gratitude
of their fellow Americans.
All in our military are serving in one of history's critical hours. Less
than two years ago, determined enemies of America entered our country, committed
acts of murder against our people, and made clear their intentions to strike
again. As long as terrorists and their allies plot to harm America, America
is at war. We did not choose this war. Yet, with the safety of the American
people at stake, we will continue to wage this war with all our might.
From the beginning, we have known the effort would be long and difficult,
and that our resolve would be tested. We know that sacrifice is unavoidable.
We have seen victories in the decisive defeat of two terror regimes, and
in the relentless pursuit of a global terror network. Yet the war on terror
goes on. We will not be distracted, and we will prevail. (Applause.)
Of those directly involved in organizing the September the 11th attacks,
almost all are now in custody or confirmed dead. Of the senior al Qaeda leaders,
operational managers, and key facilitators we have been tracking, 65 percent
have been captured or killed.
Still, we recognize that al Qaeda has trained thousands of foot soldiers
in many nations and that new leaders may emerge. And we suspect that some
al Qaeda deserters will attach themselves to other terrorist groups in order
to strike American targets. Terrorists that remain can be certain of this:
We will hunt them by day and by night in every corner of the world until
they are no longer a threat to America and our friends. (Applause.)
At this moment, American and allied forces continue the work of fighting
terrorists and establishing order in Afghanistan. When we removed the Taliban
from power, surviving al Qaeda members fled from most of that country. However,
many terrorists sought sanctuary along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and
some are still hiding there. These al Qaeda and Taliban holdouts have attacked
allied bases with unguided rockets, conducted ambushes, and fired upon border
posts. In close cooperation with the Afghan and Pakistani governments, America
is engaged in operations to find and destroy these terrorists.
Since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, it is important for our
fellow citizens to know that Pakistan has apprehended more than 500 terrorists,
including hundreds of members of al Qaeda and the Taliban.
As this fight continues, the people of Afghanistan are moving forward with
the reconstruction of their country and the founding of a democratic government.
They have selected a President. They're building a national army. And they
are now in the final stages of drafting a new constitution.
America and other countries continue to provide humanitarian aid and assistance
in building clinics and schools and roads. Joined by other nations, we are
deploying the first group of provincial reconstruction teams to various cities
in Afghanistan, groups of experts who are working with local officials to
improve public safety, promote reconstruction, and solidify the authority
of elected governments.
Afghanistan still has many challenges, but that country is making progress,
and its people are a world away from the nightmare they endured under the
Taliban. Pakistan and Afghanistan are among many governments that understand
the threat of terror and are determined to root it out.
After the terrible attacks in Riyadh on May the 12th, the government of
Saudi Arabia has intensified its longstanding efforts against the al Qaeda
network. Recently Saudi's security services apprehended Abu Bakr, believed
to be a central figure in the Riyadh bombing, and killed a major al Qaeda
operational planner and fundraiser, a man known in terrorist circles as "Swift
Saudi authorities have also uncovered terrorist operations in the holy city
of Mecca, demonstrating once again that terrorists hold nothing sacred and
have no home in any religion. America and Saudi Arabia face a common terrorist
threat, and we appreciate the strong, continuing efforts of the Saudi government
in fighting that threat.
The war on terror also continues in Iraq, where coalition forces are engaging
remanent of the former regime, as well as members of terrorist groups. We
met the major combat objectives in Operation Iraqi Freedom. We ended a regime
that possessed weapons of mass destruction, harbored and supported terrorists,
suppressed human rights, and defied the just demands of the United Nations
and the world.
The true monuments of Saddam Hussein's rule have been brought to light --
the mass graves, the torture chambers, the jail cells for children. And now
we are moving forward with the reconstruction of that country by restoring
basic services, maintaining order, searching for the hidden weapons, and
helping Iraqis to establish a representative government.
The rise of Iraq as an example of moderation and democracy and prosperity
is a massive and long-term undertaking. And the restoration of that country
is critical to the defeat of terror and radicalism throughout the Middle
East. With so much in the balance, it comes as no surprise that freedom has
enemies inside of Iraq. The looting and random violence that began in the
immediate aftermath of war remains a challenge in some areas. A greater challenge
comes from former Baath Party and security officials who will stop at nothing
to regain their power and their privilege.
But there will be no return to tyranny in Iraq. And those who threaten the
order and stability of that country will face ruin, just as surely as the
regime they once served.
Also present in Iraq are terrorist groups seeking to spread chaos and to
attack American and coalition forces. Among these terrorists are members
of Ansar al-Islam, which operated in Iraq before the war and is now active
in the Sunni heartland of the country. We suspect that the remnants of a
group tied to al Qaeda associate al-Zarqawi are still in Iraq, waiting for
an opportunity to strike. We're also beginning to see foreign fighters enter
These scattered groups of terrorists, extremists and Saddam loyalists are
especially active to the north and west of Baghdad, where they have destroyed
electricity lines and towers, set off explosions at gas pipelines and ignited
sulfur fires. They have attacked coalition forces and they're trying to intimidate
Iraqicitizens. These groups believe they have found an opportunity to harm
America, to shake our resolve in the war on terror, and to cause us to leave
Iraq before freedom is fully established. They are wrong, and they will not
Those who try to undermine the reconstruction of Iraq are not only attacking
our coalition, they are attacking the Iraqi people. And we will stand with
the Iraqi people, strongly, as they build a hopeful future. Having liberated
Iraq as promised, we will help that country to found a just and representative
government, as promised. Our goal is a swift transition to Iraqi control
of their own affairs. People of Iraq will be secure, and the people of Iraq
will run their own country.
At present, 230,000 Americans are serving inside or near Iraq. Our whole
nation, especially their families, recognizes that our people in uniform
face continuing danger. We appreciate their service under difficult circumstances,
and their willingness to fight for American security and Iraqi freedom. As
Commander-in-Chief I assure them, we will stay on the offensive against the
enemy. And all who attack our troops will be met with direct and decisive
As America fights our war against terror, we will continue to depend on
the skill and the courage of our volunteer military. In these last 22 months,
our Armed Forces have been tested and tested again. In every case, in every
mission, America's servicemen and women have brought credit to the uniform,
to our flag, and to our country. We have needed you, and you have never let
I want to thank you for keeping your pledge of duty to America, and thank
you for renewing that demanding pledge today.
And now, General Myers will administer the oath of enlistment in the Armed
Forces of the United States. May God bless you. (Applause.)