Bush: With Continued Success, Fewer Troops Will Be Needed
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
Flanked by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the president spoke to reporters for a few minutes following meetings with top military and political leaders in the country. He stopped short of stating when troop levels could be drawn down.
Bush had yet to meet with tribal leaders from Anbar province, but said he would send a message of support to the leaders of the region that has been heralded by top leaders for its successes in fighting al Qaeda.
“I am going to reassure them that America does not abandon our friends. And America will not abandon the Iraqi people. That’s the message all three of us bring,” Bush said.
Bush said he was told last summer that the region was lost. But the people rejected the ideals of the al Qaeda extremists and eventually sided with coalition forces to drive out the insurgents.
“They rejected the dark vision of al Qaeda. They didn’t like the idea of murderers deciding their fate,” the president said. “They organized themselves. They took on the terrorists and they asked for our help.”
In response to what officials are calling a tribal “awakening,” military officials have sent 4,000 more U.S. Marines to help reinforce the areas cleared of al Qaeda.
As a result, the level of violence is down, police are more in control and normal life is returning, Bush said.
“The people of this province are seeing that standing up to the extremists is the path to a better life. That success is possible,” Bush said.
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