Bush Pledges Support for Troops in Iraq, Asks Congress for Time, Resources
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
“As president, my most solemn responsibility is to keep the American people safe,” Bush said at the White House. “So on my orders, good men and women are now fighting the terrorists on the front lines in Iraq.”
Speaking to reporters about the newly released Initial Benchmark Assessment Report, Bush said he’s given the troops in Iraq clear objectives. “And as they risk their lives to achieve these objectives, they need to know they have the unwavering support from the commander in chief, and they do,” he said.
The troops also need to know that America “is not going to back down,” the president said. “So when I speak to the American people about Iraq, I often emphasize the importance of maintaining our resolve and meeting our objectives.”
Bush said the strategy he announced in January is designed to meet those objectives to allow U.S. troops to return home. The strategy seeks to:
• Help Iraqis strengthen their government so it can function, even amid violence;
• Enable Iraq’s political leaders to advance national reconciliation essential to lasting security and stability;
• Apply military pressure to root out terrorist networks in Baghdad and surrounding areas; and
• Use diplomacy to strengthen regional and international support for Iraq’s democratic government.
He noted that operations in Iraq have entered the fourth phase since the conflict began in March 2003. The first phase liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein. The second phase helped Iraq regain its sovereignty and hold free elections. The third phase revolved around the tragic escalation of sectarian violence after the bombing of Samarra’s Golden Mosque in February 2006.
The current phase is focusing on deploying reinforcements and launching new operations to help Iraqis achieve security.
Bush said this critical phase will help speed up the time required to reach U.S. objectives in Iraq and, ultimately, to enable the troops to return home.
He acknowledged that some people want the United States to start leaving Iraq now. “To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we’re ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for the United States,” he said.
It would mean surrendering Iraq’s future to al Qaeda, risking mass killings on a horrific scale and allowing terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.
But, Bush said, there’s another major concern. “It would mean we’d be increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous,” he said.
Nobody wants U.S. troops to stay in Iraq longer than absolutely necessary, he said.
“The Iraqis do not want U.S. troops patrolling their cities forever, any more than the American people do,” he said. “But we need to ensure that when U.S. forces do pull back, the terrorists and extremists cannot take control.”
Bush said the strategy being carried out by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, and the troops he commands represents “the best opportunity to bring us to this point.”
The president asked Congress to give troops the time and resources they need to get there.
“The men and women of the United States military have made enormous sacrifices for Iraq,” he said. “They have achieved great things, and the best way we can bring them home is to make sure our new strategy succeeds.”
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