Ministers, ambassadors, flag officers and distinguished guests, thank you for joining us for this transfer of authority for the Multi-National Corps-Iraq. It's hard to believe that it's been almost a year since we stood here in January and welcomed Pete Chiarelli and the Victory Corps. The Corps motto is "It will be done" - and it was. I know that Ray Odierno and Third Corps are ready to build on the foundation set by Fifth Corps and make their mark on the history of Iraq.
The past year has been a tough one, but it marks a watershed in both political and security progress. In Iraq You may not notice it at the time, you may not think you are making a difference, but when you look back at it, you really have to marvel at just how much can be accomplished here by a team of committed professionals in concert with their Iraqi and Embassy colleagues. It is good to remind ourselves that we are more relentless in our efforts than our enemies. Pete Chiarelli and his team of over 160,000 Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and civilians from 29 nations who served in MNC-I this last year, have every reason to be proud of how far they have brought this mission - in some very challenging circumstances. I'll just highlight a few of your many successes: we say we make progress in small steps every day.
First, your team oversaw the seating of the first-ever democratically elected government of Iraq. In March, the 275 representatives began their four-year terms, and on April 22 they selected Prime Minister Maliki, as Iraq's first democratically elected executive leader in 50 years. MNC-I helped maintained a secure environment as Iraq's unity government took office. Since then, the Council of Representatives passed key legislation and formed committees like the Constitutional Review Committee to continue the political process. After 35 years of oppression, Iraqis began to take ownership of their government and their destiny.
You laid the foundation for a stable and secure Iraq through your military operations in Fallujah, Mosul, Tal Afar, Haditha, Basrah, Baghdad and other key cities, which maintained pressure on the networks that support terrorists, foreign fighters and death squads in Iraq. You prevented insurgents from establishing safe havens and quelled insurgent and terrorists attacks designed to uproot democracy. Your actions disrupted al Qaida in Iraq and led to the destruction of the notorious terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Perhaps more significant than the combat operations conducted by MNC-I are the efforts to build and repair essential services throughout Iraq. Through the Commander's Emergency Response Program, MNC-I over 2000 projects valued in excess of 270 million dollars helping build a better life for the Iraqi people.
Operations conducted by MNC-I with our Iraqi partners also dampened the effects of sectarian violence, prevented widespread sectarian strife, and helped build a path for reconciliation upon which Iraq can embark. You strengthened partnerships with the Iraqi military and police and helped the Iraqi security forces gain the confidence to assume a leading role in counterinsurgency operations. A year ago, 37 Iraqi battalions, 8 brigades, and 1 division were in the lead. Today, 92 battalions, 31 brigades, and 8 divisions are leading operations across Iraq and planned training and equipping MoD forces is 98% complete. In what will likely be seen as the Corps most lasting accomplishment, the Iraqi Ground Forces Command operationally controls three Iraqi Army Divisions and is programmed to receive the rest by spring.
The Iraqi Army is emerging as a capable and respected national institution and the dominant security force in Iraq.
We designated 2006 the Year of the Police and MNC-I did the tough work to help rebuild a police force that would be worthy of the trust of the citizens it is charged to protect. When Fifth Corps assumed control in January, there were about just over one hundred thousand Iraqi Police officers. Today, the Iraqi Police Service has 135 thousand trained and equipped officers.
Last, but not least, you set the conditions to accelerate the transfer of security responsibility to the Government of Iraq. During the year, MNC-I transferred responsibility for the provinces of Dhi Qar, Al-Muthanna to Iraq. Responsibility for An-Najaf will transfer next week. The Victory Corps has set the stage so that by this time next year, all provinces can be under control of Iraq and Iraqi Security Forces will be able to conduct operations with minimal support from the Coalition. These are great accomplishments that demonstrate just how much progress Iraq can make in a short time.
Throughout 2006, the efforts of Fifth Corps to support the building of a free and democratic Iraq, founded in the principles of unity, security and prosperity are apparent. Their accomplishments are only possible because of the spirit of "Iltizam Mushtarak" as they and their Iraqi colleagues have moved forward across Iraq every day.
Pete, on behalf of a grateful coalition, I congratulate you and your team for your service and dedication to mission. You did the heavy lifting and left Iraq better than it was a year ago. I will always remember your passion for building a better life for the people of Iraq and your commitment to the mission. I want to thank you and Command Sergeant Beam, on behalf of all the service members who served under you in the Multi-national Corps. Your steadfast leadership and ability to adapt revolutionized the way militaries approach counterinsurgency. It was your vision, direction and enforcement of standards that set the foundation for the Corp's success.
Before I conclude, I want to say a word about two groups who, though not physically present here today, are certainly with us in spirit. First, many of our brave warriors gave their lives to build a new Iraq. Their commitment, self-less service and courage have not been in vain. They helped bring liberty and democracy to 25 million Iraqis. They helped eliminate dangerous threats to Iraq and the entire democratic world. They will not be forgotten by their comrades or the grateful nations of this coalition.
Second, I want to acknowledge your families who make a tremendous sacrifice. Your loved ones shouldered a heavy burden and we are blessed with their unwavering support.
Ray Ordierno and the Phantom Corps team, welcome back to Iraq. As you know, much has been done, but much work remains. The year ahead holds both opportunity and challenge for the people of Iraq We will work with the Iraqi government to achieve reconciliation as a means to stabilize the security situation and enable the acceleration and completion of the transition of security responsibility to the Iraqis. Your team will continue to build and expand Iraqi control of provincial and national-level security operations, border security, improvement in the Iraqi Police Services, and the defeat of extremists attempting to deny the Iraqi people their future. I'm confident that the Corps will rise to every challenge and make 2007 the decisive year in Iraq. Pete and CSM Beam, thanks for a magnificent job here, God Speed. Ray and CSM Ciotola glad to have you on the team. and the coalition forces charged with preserving our hard-won democratic gains.