THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. On Thursday, I visited the USS Abraham Lincoln, now headed home after the longest carrier deployment in recent history. I delivered good news to the men and women who fought in the cause of freedom: their mission is complete and major combat operations in Iraq have ended. Our coalition is now engaged in securing and reconstructing that country. The United States and our allies have prevailed.
Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision, speed and boldness the enemy did not expect and the world had not seen before. From distance bases or ships at sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy division or strike a single building or bunker. Marines and soldiers charged to Baghdad across 350 miles of hostile ground in one of the swiftest mass advances of heavy arms in history. The world has seen the might of the American armed forces.
In this victory, America received valuable help from our allies. This weekend, I am hosting Australian Prime Minister John Howard at my ranch in Crawford, Texas. Prime Minister Howard has been a strong ally in the war on terror, and Australian forces have played an important role in the liberation of Iraq. Australian Special Forces entered Iraq with their American and British counterparts at the very beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They helped to secure sites in western Iraq that could have been used to launch scud missiles. And they disrupted Iraqi troop movements and command posts, paving the way for Army and Marine units making their way to Baghdad.
Australia FA-18 fighters carried out deep bombing runs in Iraq. The Australian Navy worked with British forces to take control of the Faw Peninsula. Australian Navy divers cleared mines in the port of Umm Qasr, opening sea lanes to deliver humanitarian assistance. And Australian transport planes delivered emergency supplies and equipment for Iraqi hospitals.
All told, about 2,000 Australian service members contributed to the destruction of Saddam Hussein's regime and the liberation of the Iraqi people. All Australians can be justly proud of the superb performance of Australian's air, naval and Special Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom. America is deeply grateful for their important contributions.
Our coalition still has much work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We are pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime who will be held to account for their crimes. We have begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons at hundreds of locations. We are helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools for the people. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by and for the Iraqi people. The transition from dictatorship to democracy is hard, and will take time -- but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done, then we will leave -- and we will leave behind a free Iraq.
The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that still goes on. al Qaeda is wounded, not destroyed. The scattered cells of the terrorist networks still operate in many nations. And we know from daily intelligence that they continue to plot against free people. The proliferation of deadly weapons remains a serious danger. The enemies of freedom are not idle, and neither are we. Our government has taken unprecedented measures to defend our homeland and, more importantly, we will continue to hunt the enemy down before he can strike.
No act of terrorists will change our purpose or weaken our resolve or alter their fate. Their cause is lost. Free nations will press on to victory.
Thank you for listening.