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The Iraq war's exit strategy.

"What is the exit strategy from the war in Iraq?" you may ask.

The answer depends on whom you ask, and when.

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." - George W. Bush, April 8, 1999.

"I think it’s also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long [U.S. military forces] will be involved and when they will be withdrawn." - George W. Bush, June 4, 1999

Disclaimer: Some of these transcripts may not be exactly accurate. I have discovered that the White House sometimes 'cleans up' transcripts of what Mr. Bush actually said to make it more presentable and presidential, removing the 'umm's, 'uhh's, 'I mean's, and 'you-know's.

Updated October 21, 2011


(CNN) -- President Barack Obama on Friday announced that virtually all U.S. troops will come home from Iraq by the end of the year -- at which point he can declare an end to America's long and costly war in that Middle Eastern nation.

"After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," Obama said. "The coming months will be a season of homecomings. Our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays."

Of the 39,000 troops in Iraq, about 150, a negligible force, will remain to assist in arms sales, a U.S. official told CNN. The rest will be out of Iraq by December 31.

The president said he was making good on his 2008 campaign pledge to end a war that has divided the nation since it began in 2003 and claimed more than 4,400 American lives.The announcement also came after talks that might have allowed a continued major military presence broke down amid disputes about whether U.S. troops would be immune to prosecution by Iraqi authorities.

Obama spoke with Iraqi President Nuri al-Maliki in a video conference Friday, after which he said both nations were comfortable with the decision on how to move forward.
The new partnership with Iraq will be "strong and enduring," Obama said.

"The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their head held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops," Obama said.


© 2011 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(CNN) -- The United States will withdraw another 4,000 troops in Iraq by the end of October, the U.S. military commander in Iraq said in prepared testimony for a congressional hearing Wednesday.

U.S. Gen. Ray Odierno is expected to tell the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee that there has been a significant drop in violence in Iraq recently, according to the statement obtained by CNN.

President Obama has said the U.S. combat mission in Iraq will end by August 31, 2010. Obama also said he plans to keep a range of 35,000 to 50,000 support troops on the ground in Iraq after combat troops are out.

"We have approximately 124,000 troops and 11 Combat Teams operating in Iraq today. By the end of October, I believe we will be down to 120,000 troops in Iraq," Odierno said in the remarks.

Odierno said statistics show violence has dropped in Iraq.

"Overall attacks have decreased 85 percent over the past two years from 4,064 in August 2007 to 594 in August 2009, with 563 in September so far," Odierno said. "In that same time period, U.S. military deaths have decreased by 93 percent, Iraqi Security Force deaths have decreased 79 percent."

Odierno said there were still security questions.

"Although security is improving, it is not yet enduring. There still remain underlying, unresolved sources of potential conflict," Odierno said.

Odierno pointed to the August 19 bombings in Baghdad that targeted the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs that killed more than 100 people as an example of ongoing challenges in Iraq.

However, Odierno gave a vote of confidence to the Iraqi forces who had taken over security for Baghdad after U.S. forces handed over control.

"The Iraqis wanted to be in charge; they wanted the responsibilities; and they have demonstrated that they are capable," he said.


- 4,000 U.S. troops expected to leave Iraq in October, CNN, September 30, 2009


© 2009 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

British forces have begun their official withdrawal from Iraq after the UK's commander in the south of the country handed over to a US general.

Major General Andy Salmon has transferred authority for what will become Multi-National Division South to US Major General Michael Oates.

The generals' pennants were raised and lowered in a handover ceremony.

Most of Britain's 4,000 troops will leave by 31 May, the official end-of-combat date.

About 400 will stay after that, either in HQ roles or to train the Iraqi Navy.


- UK troops begin Iraqi withdrawal, BBC News, March 31, 2009



Good morning Marines. Good morning Camp Lejeune. Good morning Jacksonville. Thank you for that outstanding welcome. I want to thank Lieutenant General Hejlik for hosting me here today.

I also want to acknowledge all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That includes the Camp Lejeune Marines now serving with – or soon joining – the Second Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq; those with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force in Afghanistan; and those among the 8,000 Marines who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. We have you in our prayers. We pay tribute to your service. We thank you and your families for all that you do for America. And I want all of you to know that there is no higher honor or greater responsibility than serving as your Commander-in-Chief.

I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge Ryan Crocker, who recently completed his service as our Ambassador to Iraq. Throughout his career, Ryan always took on the toughest assignments. He is an example of the very best that this nation has to offer, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude. He carried on his work with an extraordinary degree of cooperation with two of our finest Generals – General David Petraeus, and General Ray Odierno – who will be critical in carrying forward the strategy that I will outline today.

Next month will mark the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq. By any measure, this has already been a long war. For the men and women of America’s armed forces – and for your families – this war has been one of the most extraordinary chapters of service in the history of our nation. You have endured tour after tour after tour of duty. You have known the dangers of combat and the lonely distance of loved ones. You have fought against tyranny and disorder. You have bled for your best friends and for unknown Iraqis. And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens, while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq. Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor, and succeeded beyond any expectation.

Today, I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.

To understand where we need to go in Iraq, it is important for the American people to understand where we now stand. Thanks in great measure to your service, the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs. The capacity of Iraq’s Security Forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation. The relative peace and strong participation in January’s provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process.

But let there be no doubt: Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead. Violence will continue to be a part of life in Iraq. Too many fundamental political questions about Iraq’s future remain unresolved. Too many Iraqis are still displaced or destitute. Declining oil revenues will put an added strain on a government that has had difficulty delivering basic services. Not all of Iraq’s neighbors are contributing to its security. Some are working at times to undermine it. And even as Iraq’s government is on a surer footing, it is not yet a full partner – politically and economically – in the region, or with the international community

In short, today there is a renewed cause for hope in Iraq, but that hope rests upon an emerging foundation.

On my first full day in office, I directed my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of our strategy in Iraq to determine the best way to strengthen that foundation, while strengthening American national security. I have listened to my Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and commanders on the ground. We have acted with careful consideration of events on the ground; with respect for the security agreements between the United States and Iraq; and with a critical recognition that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political – not military. Because the most important decisions that have to be made about Iraq’s future must now be made by Iraqis.

We have also taken into account the simple reality that America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities: we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan; of relieving the burden on our military; and of rebuilding our struggling economy – and these are challenges that we will meet.

Today, I can announce that our review is complete, and that the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility.

This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists. We will help Iraq build new ties of trade and commerce with the world. And we will forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq that contributes to the peace and security of the region.

What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals. We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries. We cannot police Iraq’s streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq’s union is perfected. We cannot sustain indefinitely a commitment that has put a strain on our military, and will cost the American people nearly a trillion dollars. America’s men and women in uniform have fought block by block, province by province, year after year, to give the Iraqis this chance to choose a better future. Now, we must ask the Iraqi people to seize it.

The first part of this strategy is therefore the responsible removal of our combat brigades from Iraq.

As a candidate for President, I made clear my support for a timeline of 16 months to carry out this drawdown, while pledging to consult closely with our military commanders upon taking office to ensure that we preserve the gains we’ve made and protect our troops. Those consultations are now complete, and I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months.

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.

As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of our troops and civilians in Iraq. We will proceed carefully, and I will consult closely with my military commanders on the ground and with the Iraqi government. There will surely be difficult periods and tactical adjustments. But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed.

After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country. As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.

Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.

As we responsibly remove our combat brigades, we will pursue the second part of our strategy: sustained diplomacy on behalf of a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq.

The drawdown of our military should send a clear signal that Iraq’s future is now its own responsibility. The long-term success of the Iraqi nation will depend upon decisions made by Iraq’s leaders and the fortitude of the Iraqi people. Iraq is a sovereign country with legitimate institutions; America cannot – and should not – take their place. However, a strong political, diplomatic, and civilian effort on our part can advance progress and help lay a foundation for lasting peace and security.

This effort will be led by our new Ambassador to Iraq – Chris Hill. From his time in the Peace Corps, to his work in Kosovo and Korea, Ambassador Hill has been tested, and he has shown the pragmatism and skill that we need right now. He will be supported by the courageous and capable work of so many American diplomats and aid workers who are serving in Iraq.

Going forward, we can make a difference on several fronts. We will work with the United Nations to support national elections, while helping Iraqis improve local government. We can serve as an honest broker in pursuit of fair and durable agreements on issues that have divided Iraq’s leaders. And just as we will support Iraq’s Security Forces, we will help Iraqi institutions strengthen their capacity to protect the rule of law, confront corruption, and deliver basic services.

Diplomacy and assistance is also required to help the millions of displaced Iraqis. These men, women and children are a living consequence of this war and a challenge to stability in the region, and they must become a part of Iraq’s reconciliation and recovery. America has a strategic interest – and a moral responsibility – to act. In the coming months, my administration will provide more assistance and take steps to increase international support for countries already hosting refugees; we’ll cooperate with others to resettle Iraqis facing great personal risk; and we will work with the Iraqi government over time to resettle refugees and displaced Iraqis within Iraq – because there are few more powerful indicators of lasting peace than displaced citizens returning home.

Now, before I go any further, I want to take a moment to speak directly to the people of Iraq.

You are a great nation, rooted in the cradle of civilization. You are joined together by enduring accomplishments, and a history that connects you as surely as the two rivers carved into your land. In years past, you have persevered through tyranny and terror; through personal insecurity and sectarian violence. And instead of giving in to the forces of disunion, you stepped back from a descent into civil war, and showed a proud resilience that deserves respect.

Our nations have known difficult times together. But ours is a bond forged by shared bloodshed, and countless friendships among our people. We Americans have offered our most precious resource – our young men and women – to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism; to root out our common enemies; and to seek peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, and for yours.

There are those who will try to prevent that future for Iraq – who will insist that Iraq’s differences cannot be reconciled without more killing. They represent the forces that destroy nations and lead only to despair, and they will test our will in the months and years to come. America, too, has known these forces. We endured the pain of Civil War, and bitter divisions of region and race. But hostility and hatred are no match for justice; they offer no pathway to peace; and they must not stand between the people of Iraq and a future of reconciliation and hope.

So to the Iraqi people, let me be clear about America’s intentions. The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country. And going forward, we can build a lasting relationship founded upon mutual interests and mutual respect as Iraq takes its rightful place in the community of nations.

That leads me to the third part of our strategy –comprehensive American engagement across the region.

The future of Iraq is inseparable from the future of the broader Middle East, so we must work with our friends and partners to establish a new framework that advances Iraq’s security and the region’s. It is time for Iraq to be a full partner in a regional dialogue, and for Iraq’s neighbors to establish productive and normalized relations with Iraq. And going forward, the United States will pursue principled and sustained engagement with all of the nations in the region, and that will include Iran and Syria.

This reflects a fundamental truth: we can no longer deal with regional challenges in isolation – we need a smarter, more sustainable and comprehensive approach. That is why we are renewing our diplomacy, while relieving the burden on our military. That is why we are refocusing on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing a strategy to use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; and actively seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world. And that is why we have named three of America’s most accomplished diplomats – George Mitchell, Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke – to support Secretary Clinton and me as we carry forward this agenda.

Every nation and every group must know – whether you wish America good or ill – that the end of the war in Iraq will enable a new era of American leadership and engagement in the Middle East. And that era has just begun.

Finally, I want to be very clear that my strategy for ending the war in Iraq does not end with military plans or diplomatic agendas – it endures through our commitment to uphold our sacred trust with every man and woman who has served in Iraq.

You make up a fraction of the American population, but in an age when so many people and institutions have acted irresponsibly, you did the opposite – you volunteered to bear the heaviest burden. And for you and for your families, the war does not end when you come home. It lives on in memories of your fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who gave their lives. It endures in the wound that is slow to heal, the disability that isn’t going away, the dream that wakes you at night, or the stiffening in your spine when a car backfires down the street.

You and your families have done your duty – now a grateful nation must do ours. That is why I am increasing the number of soldiers and Marines, so that we lessen the burden on those who are serving. And that is why I have committed to expanding our system of veterans health care to serve more patients, and to provide better care in more places. We will continue building new wounded warrior facilities across America, and invest in new ways of identifying and treating the signature wounds of this war: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as other combat injuries.

We also know that service does not end with the person wearing the uniform. In her visits with military families across the country, my wife Michelle has learned firsthand about the unique burden that your families endure every day. I want you to know this: military families are a top priority for Michelle and me, and they will be a top priority for my administration. We’ll raise military pay, and continue providing quality child-care, job-training for spouses, and expanded counseling and outreach to families that have known the separation and stress of war. We will also heed the lesson of history – that those who fight in battle can form the backbone of our middle class – by implementing a 21st century GI Bill to help our veterans live their dreams.

As a nation, we have had our share of debates about the war in Iraq. It has, at times, divided us as a people. To this very day, there are some Americans who want to stay in Iraq longer, and some who want to leave faster. But there should be no disagreement on what the men and women of our military have achieved.

And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime – and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government – and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life – that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible.

There are many lessons to be learned from what we’ve experienced. We have learned that America must go to war with clearly defined goals, which is why I’ve ordered a review of our policy in Afghanistan. We have learned that we must always weigh the costs of action, and communicate those costs candidly to the American people, which is why I’ve put Iraq and Afghanistan into my budget. We have learned that in the 21st century, we must use all elements of American power to achieve our objectives, which is why I am committed to building our civilian national security capacity so that the burden is not continually pushed on to our military. We have learned that our political leaders must pursue the broad and bipartisan support that our national security policies depend upon, which is why I will consult with Congress and in carrying out my plans. And we have learned the importance of working closely with friends and allies, which is why we are launching a new era of engagement in the world.

The starting point for our policies must always be the safety of the American people. I know that you – the men and women of the finest fighting force in the history of the world – can meet any challenge, and defeat any foe. And as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I promise you that I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and provide you with the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That is the most important lesson of all – for the consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable.

You know because you have seen those sacrifices. You have lived them. And we all honor them.

"Semper Fidelis" – it means always being faithful to Corps, and to country, and to the memory of fallen comrades like Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. These young men enlisted in a time of war, knowing they would face great danger. They came here, to Camp Lejeune, as they trained for their mission. And last April, they were standing guard in Anbar. In an age when suicide is a weapon, they were suddenly faced with an oncoming truck filled with explosives. These two Marines stood their ground. These two Marines opened fire. And these two Marines stopped that truck. When the thousands of pounds of explosives detonated, they had saved fifty Marines and Iraqi police who would have been in the truck’s path, but Corporal Yale and Lance Corporal Haerter lost their own lives. Jonathan was 21. Jordan was 19.

In the town where Jordan Haerter was from, a bridge was dedicated in his name. One Marine who traveled to the ceremony said: "We flew here from all over the country to pay tribute to our friend Jordan, who risked his life to save us. We wouldn’t be here without him."

America’s time in Iraq is filled with stories of men and women like this. Their names are written into bridges and town squares. They are etched into stones at Arlington, and in quiet places of rest across our land. They are spoken in schools and on city blocks. They live on in the memories of those who wear your uniform, in the hearts of those they loved, and in the freedom of the nation they served.

Each American who has served in Iraq has their own story. Each of you has your own story. And that story is now a part of the history of the United States of America – a nation that exists only because free men and women have bled for it from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Anbar; from the mountains of Korea to the streets of Kandahar. You teach us that the price of freedom is great. Your sacrifice should challenge all of us – every single American – to ask what we can do to be better citizens.

There will be more danger in the months ahead. We will face new tests and unforeseen trials. But thanks to the sacrifices of those who have served, we have forged hard-earned progress, we are leaving Iraq to its people, and we have begun the work of ending this war.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America. Semper Fi.


Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
Friday, February 27, 2009


SCHIEFFER: The situation in Iraq, what do you see there now? What do you think the state of Iraq is right now?

Vice Pres. CHENEY: I think Iraq is much better off than it was before we went in in '03. We got rid of Saddam Hussein. I think we are close to achieving most of our objectives. We've seen a significant reduction in the overall level of violence. It's lower now than virtually anytime since we've been there in the spring of '03. We've seen the elimination of one of the world's worst regimes. We've seen the Iraqis write a constitution and hold three national elections. We've now
entered into a Strategic Framework Agreement with the Iraqis that calls for ultimately the US completion of the assignment and withdrawal of our forces from Iraq. All of those things I think by anybody's standard would be--excuse me--evidence of significant success, and I think we're very close to achieving what it is we set out to do five years ago when we first went into Iraq.


Vice President Dick Cheney, Appearing on CBS' Face The Nation, with Bob Schieffer, January 4, 2009


© 2008, CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri Maliki, said today that UK forces will have "completed their tasks" in the first half of 2009 and will then leave the country.

The two leaders made the announcement in a joint statement released as they held talks in Baghdad.

They said: "The role played by the UK combat forces is drawing to a close. These forces will have completed their tasks in the first half of 2009 and will then leave Iraq."

The premiers added that the partnership between the two countries would continue.

Yesterday, the Iraqi council of ministers agreed a new resolution allowing British troops to remain in the country until the end of July.

Their current United Nations mandate expires at the end of the month.

British officials say the resolution merely set a last possible date for the vast majority of Britain's 4,100-strong contingent to be gone.

Mr Brown confirmed the outlines of the plans today before updating the House of Commons in greater detail tomorrow.

The Prime Minister is being accompanied on the visit by the Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff.

Speaking at a press conference after the talks, Mr Brown indicated that military operations would be over by the end of May. The withdrawal would then take place until around July.

"We have agreed today that the mission will end no later than the 31st of May next year," Mr Brown said. "Our troops will be coming home within the next two months (after that)."

He went on: "The biggest reduction will be at the end part of the period we are talking about."

Mr Maliki confirmed that the agreement included a provision for the Iraqi government to request an extension of the British military presence. However, both leaders indicated that it was not expected to be used.


- "Brown: UK troops will end Iraq mission and leave in 2009," The Herald, December 17, 2008


Copyright © 2008 Newsquest (Herald & Times) Limited.

The enemies of freedom in Iraq are determined, and this fight has been tough. Two years ago, the situation had grown dire -- the political process was frozen and sectarian violence was spiraling out of control. Some of you were here then.

Many said the mission was hopeless; many called for retreat. Retreat would have meant failure -- and failure is never an option.


So instead of pulling troops out, we sent more troops in -- called the surge. And because of you and because of your courage, the surge is one of the greatest successes in the history of the United States military.


Terrorists who once held safe havens across the country are being driven out of their strongholds. The political process that was once stalled is moving forward. Iraqi citizens once afraid to leave their homes are going back to school, and shopping in markets, and leading a more normal life. And American troops are returning home because of success.


The dramatic turnaround you led in Iraq culminated in the two agreements completed last month, which the Prime Minister and I affirmed in a ceremony earlier today.

These agreements formalize the ties between our two democracies in areas ranging from security and diplomacy to culture and trade. These agreements show the way forward toward a historic day -- when American forces withdraw from a democratic and successful Iraq, and the war in this land is won.

There's more hard work to do before we reach that day. But if there is any -- but if there is no doubt -- but there is no doubt in my mind, there's just no doubt that we're going to reach that day. I am confident because our cause is just. And freedom is universal. I'm confident because the Iraqi people are showing unshakable determination and courage.

And above all, I am confident because I know the character and the strength of those who wear the uniform of the United States military.


- George W. Bush, President Bush Visits Troops in Iraq,  December 13, 2008

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has told US troops in Iraq that their mission there is in its "endgame".

Mr Gates said the US military presence would undergo a "significant change of mission" next June when troops are due to withdraw from Iraq's urban areas.

Under a recently agreed deal between the two countries, US troops will completely withdraw from Iraq by 2011.

However, the US general leading US troops in Iraq has said he expects some soldiers to stay in cities beyond June.

The Iraqi parliament voted in favour of the new security deal with the Americans last month. Iraq's government has hailed the agreement as the prelude to the return of full sovereignty to the country.

'In the endgame'

Speaking to US troops at an air base north of Baghdad, Mr Gates said the process of reducing troop numbers had already begun.

He said President-elect Barack Obama had "talked about wanting to listen and hear from commanders on the ground".

"We are in the process of the draw down. We are, I believe, in terms of the American commitment, in the endgame here in Iraq."

Regarding the date of urban withdrawals, he said: "That represents a really significant change of mission, and it calls for us to have all of our combat units out by the end of 2011."

He said the US had suggested the June date because commanders believed they would have turned over all 18 provinces to provincial Iraqi control by then.

Also at the air base, General Ray Odierno, the US military commander in Iraq, said some troops would remain in Iraqi cities to advise and train Iraqi forces, rather than take part in combat.

As training at local security stations is part of the deal, Gen Odierno said: "We believe we should still be inside those after the summer."

He did not specify how many of the current 150,000 US military personnel deployed in Iraq would remain.

He highlighted elections due to be held next year, saying: "It's important that we maintain enough presence here that we can help them get through this year of transition.

"We don't want to take a step backward because we've made so much progress here."

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has dismissed comments from his official spokesman that US troops could remain for a decade.

The spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, has provoked controversy by doubting the ability of Iraq troops to take over in three years, saying the Americans might need to stay for 10 years.

Mr Maliki said his spokesman had simply been giving his personal opinion, and that the notion that US troops would stay in Iraq for a further decade was not the government's view.

Opponents of the new security plan, including the radical Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr, say they do not believe the US will withdraw by the dates they have promised to - and insist they should leave Iraq immediately.


- "'Endgame' for US mission in Iraq," BBC News, December 13, 2008



LONDON: Britain's remaining troops in Iraq will begin withdrawing from the country in March on a timetable that will aim to leave only a small training force of 300 to 400 by June, according to Defense Ministry officials quoted by the BBC and several of Britain's major newspapers on Wednesday.

The long-expected drawdown of the British force next year from its current level of 4,100 troops will bring an effective end to Britain's role as the principal partner of the United States in the occupation of Iraq. In the invasion in March 2003, a British force of more than 46,000 troops participated in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

In July, Prime Minister Gordon Brown already outlined a tentative plan for withdrawing most of Britain's remaining troops early in 2009 but gave no fixed timetable and left open the number of troops who would be returning home. The Defense Ministry issued a statement after the flurry of news reports about the withdrawal that did not deny their accuracy. Although the ministry did not confirm that March would mark the beginning of the drawdown, it confirmed that the ministry was "expecting to see a fundamental change of mission in early 2009."

As for the timetable involved in the withdrawal, the statement added, "Our position remains that we will judge it on military advice at the time."

The leaking of the British withdrawal plan appeared to have been prompted, at least in part, by President-elect Barack Obama's triumph in the presidential election last month, and his plans to draw up a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Kouchner admits to clash between rights and policy Brown's determination to withdraw Britain's Iraq contingent ahead of a general election that must be held here by June 2010 has led to months of edgy negotiations with the Bush administration.

American military commanders have contingency plans for American troops to replace the departing British units at their base outside Basra, the principal city in southern Iraq, and the British news reports on Wednesday said that was now a firm plan. But there has been no announcement of the shift from the Pentagon, possibly because the planning process there is now caught up with the Bush-Obama transition that will not be complete until Obama's inauguration in January.

Britain's plans - and its talks with Washington - have been complicated by pressure from the Bush Administration on the Brown government to couple the British drawdown in Iraq with an increase of British troop strength in Afghanistan. It is a demand that is not likely to relent under Obama, who has said that he plans to increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan as he refocuses the American military effort to make Afghanistan the focus of the American war on terrorism.

In recent months, British officials have been unwilling to commit to increase British troop strength in Afghanistan, though there have been signs that their position may ease after Obama takes office. A force of 7,800 British soldiers - proportional to populations of Britain and the United States, a commitment similar in size to the 33,000 American troops in Afghanistan - has been engaged in fierce combat with the Taliban in the southwestern province of Helmand. The British force is second only in size to the American force among more than 30 nations that have troops in Afghanistan.

British commanders have said that they need to get their troops out of Iraq without immediately recommitting them to Afghanistan as part of a broader plan to lower the "operational tempo" of Britain's military commitments, which have placed severe strains on Britain's armed forces. They have also said they are reluctant to commit more British troops to Afghanistan unless other NATO nations, including France and Germany, agree to step up their troop levels, and to share combat strains that have hitherto rested mainly on American, British and Canadian troops.

Meanwhile, the need to replace the departing British troops in Basra will place new strains on American commanders in Iraq. Since 2003, they have relied on British troops to maintain stability in southern Iraq and guard the vital overland supply route from Kuwait, past Basra and on into central Iraq, where most of the 130,000 American troops are based. Now, if the British reports are confirmed, they will have to detach an American force of brigade strength to the south, just as they begin drawing down their own troop levels further north.


- "Britain to begin Iraq withdrawal in March", By John F. Burns, International Herald Tribune, December 10, 2008


Copyright © 2008 the International Herald Tribune All rights reserved

MR. BROKAW:  Let's talk for a moment about Iraq.  It was a principal--it was one of the principals in the organization of your campaign at the beginning. A lot of people voted for you because they thought you would bring the war in Iraq to an end very swiftly.  Here is what you had to say on July 3rd of this year about what you would do once you took office.


PRES.-ELECT OBAMA:  I intend to end this war.  My first day in office I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in and I will give them a new mission, and that is to end this war responsibly, deliberately, but decisively.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW:  When does the drawdown of American troops begin and when does it end in Iraq?

PRES.-ELECT OBAMA:  Well, one of my first acts as president, once I'm sworn in, will be to bring in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to bring in my national security team, and design a plan for a responsible drawdown.  You are seeing a convergence.  When I began this campaign, there was a lot of controversy about the idea of starting to draw down troops.  Now you've seen the--this administration sign an agreement with the Iraqi government, both creating a time frame for removing U.S. troops.  And so what I want to do is tell our Joint Chiefs, let's do it as quickly as we can do to maintain stability in Iraq, maintain the safety of U.S. troops, to provide a mechanism so that Iraq can start taking more responsibility as a sovereign nation for it's own safety and security, ensuring that you don't see any resurgence of terrorism in Iraq that could threaten our interests.  But recognizing that the central front on terror, as Bob Gates said, started in Afghanistan, in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  That's where it will end, and that has to be our priority.


MR. BROKAW:  Before we leave that part of the world, on Iraq, there's a new phrase that has come into play called "residual force," how many troops will stay behind in an Obama administration.  Speculation is 35,000 to 50,000.  Is that a fair number?

PRES.-ELECT OBAMA:  Well, I'm not going to speculate on the numbers.  What I've said is that we are going to maintain a large enough force in the region to assure that our civilian troops--or our, our, our civilian personnel and our, our embassies are protected, to make sure that we can ferret out any remaining terrorist activity in the region, in cooperation with the Iraqi government, that we are providing training and logistical support, maintaining the integrity of Iraq as necessary.  And, you know, I--one of the things that I'll be doing is evaluating what kind of number's required to meet those very limited goals.


U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, NBC's Meet the Press, December 7, 2008


© 2008 Microsoft

"As with any large undertaking, these efforts have not always gone according to plan, and in some areas we've fallen short of our hopes. For example, the fight in Iraq has been longer and more costly than expected."


- George W. Bush, President Bush Attends Saban Forum 2008, December 5, 2008



Fact Sheet: The Strategic Framework Agreement and the Security Agreement with Iraq

The United States and the government of Iraq have negotiated two historic agreements: a Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) that covers our overall political, economic, and security relationship with Iraq, and a Security Agreement – otherwise known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) – that implements our security relationship.

Both agreements protect U.S. interests in the Middle East, help the Iraqi people stand on their own, and reinforce Iraqi sovereignty.

The SFA normalizes the U.S.-Iraqi relationship with strong economic, diplomatic, cultural, and security ties – and serves as the foundation for a long-term bilateral relationship based on mutual goals.

The Security Agreement guides our security relationship with Iraq and governs the U.S. presence, activities, and eventual withdrawal from Iraq. This agreement ensures vital protections for U.S. troops and provides operational authorities for our forces so we can help sustain the positive security trends as we continue to transition to a supporting role.

The Success Of The Surge And The Courage Of The Iraqi People Set The Conditions For These Historic Negotiations

The sustained security gains and increasing capacity and confidence of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Security Forces are reasons the United States and the Iraqis were able to negotiate these agreements.

These Agreements are what our troops have been fighting for and working toward: the moment when Iraqis could begin taking responsibility for security and governance on their own – something they could not have done two years ago.

To Ensure That The Security Agreement Is Consistent With The Capacity Of Iraq's Security Forces, The Dates Included In This Agreement Were Discussed With The Iraqis, General Petraeus, And General Odierno – They Allow For The Continued Transition Of Security Responsibilities To The Iraqis

As we further transition security responsibilities to the Iraqi Security Forces, military commanders will continue to move U.S. combat forces out of major populated areas so that they are all out by June 30, 2009.

The Security Agreement also sets a date of December 31, 2011, for all U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq. This date reflects the increasing capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces as demonstrated in operations this year throughout Iraq, as well as an improved regional atmosphere towards Iraq, an expanding Iraqi economy, and an increasingly confident Iraqi government.

These dates therefore are based on an assessment of positive conditions on the ground and a realistic projection of when U.S. forces can reduce their presence and return home without a sacrificing the security gains made since the surge.

The Security Agreement Will Protect The United States And Our Troops And Incorporates The Visions Of An Independent And Bipartisan Commission

U.S. soldiers and civilians on the ground will continue to have uninterrupted and essential protections while serving in Iraq. Our troops will also continue to have essential operational authorities to sustain positive security trends seen in Iraq over the past year.

The Security Agreement also reflects the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group’s recommendation that the Security Agreement include authorities for the United States to continue fighting al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Iraq, continued support for Iraqi Security Forces, and political reassurances to the government of Iraq.

These Agreements Will Advance A Stable Iraq In The Heart Of The Middle East

The SFA and Security Agreement with Iraq move us closer to the strategic vision we all hope for in the Middle East: a region of independent states, at peace with one another, fully participating in the global market of goods and ideas, and an ally in the War on Terror.

The SFA implements the Iraqi and U.S. desire for a long-term relationship based on cooperation and friendship as set out in the Declaration of Principles signed in November 2007. The SFA also includes commitments on:

Defense, security, law enforcement, and judicial cooperation and development.
Further improvement of political, diplomatic, and cultural cooperation.
Economic, energy, health, environment, technology, and communications cooperation.
Joint Coordination Committees to monitor the implementation of the SFA.
The SFA and Security Agreement do not tie the hands of the next President. This package provides a solid foundation for the next President to pursue a full range of policy options with Iraq.
The SFA And Security Agreement Are The Final Steps In Iraq's Request For Normalized Relations

In a Communiqué issued on August 26, 2007, Iraq’s five principal political leaders – Prime Minister Maliki, President Talabani, Vice Presidents Hashimi and Abd al-Mahdi, and Kurdistan Regional Government President Barzani – requested an end to Chapter VII status under the U.N. Security Council and the establishment of a long-term relationship with the United States.

This led to the U.S.- Iraq Declaration of Principles signed on November 26, 2007, which laid out a "table of contents" that the United States and Iraq would discuss in official negotiations. Bilateral negotiations began in earnest in March 2008.

The SFA and Security Agreement, which are the result of the Communiqué and the Declaration of Principles, were approved by the Iraqi Cabinet and the Council of Representatives on November 27, 2008. On December 4, Iraq’s three-person Presidency Council endorsed the COR’s vote.


- "Fact Sheet: The Strategic Framework Agreement and the Security Agreement with Iraq", White House web site, December 4, 2008




IRAQ: Thousands march to protest Status of Forces Agreement


Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's call to followers to hold a mass prayer and protest in central Baghdad to denounce the new Status of Forces Agreement reached between U.S. and Iraqi negotiators brought tens of thousands of people swarming into central Baghdad's Firdos Square on Friday. This is none other than the place where U.S. forces helped Iraqis joyously pull down a giant statue of Saddam Hussein back in April 2003.

This time, the crowd gathered at the square was just as frenzied, but there were no American forces in sight. And this time, the protesters dragged down something very different: an effigy of President Bush. Their anger is over the SOFA, which would keep U.S. forces in Iraq through December 2011. That's far too long, according to the anti-U.S. cleric Sadr, and according to those in the crowd Friday.


They included young men like 19-year-old Ali Mohammed, who said the pact won't serve Iraqi interests if it is passed by the parliament next week, when a vote is expected. "We want the occupiers to leave. We don't want to form agreements with them," he said as he and a friend entered the rally site. There were plenty of old people in the crowd as well, including a woman who called herself Um Hadhi, who had walked for hours by herself from Sadr City to attend the protest.


"We are against the Americans. We want them to get out. Let them just say goodbye and leave us in peace," she said, deep wrinkles creasing her face. Sadr_march9 She refused to give her age. "I'm still young!" she said with a laugh as she headed for home after the rally.

As with most Sadrist protests, this one ended with the burning of an American symbol. Usually that's a flag. This time, it was the effigy, which bore little resemblance to Bush except for the suit and tie. In fact, from a distant rooftop, it bore a striking resemblance to L. Paul Bremer III, the one-time U.S.-appointed administrator of Iraq whose decrees are now blamed for many of the problems plaguing Iraq.

Covering a rally of this size is always tricky. You don't want to be caught in the middle of a melee if things turn sour. You need to be close enough to see what's going on, but not so close that all you see are other faces in the crowd. And this being Baghdad, one is always aware of the possibility for sudden violence. Many huge Shiite gatherings have been targeted by suicide bombers.

This time, there were no such problems. Iraqi security forces rimmed the perimeter of the wide avenues where most marchers passed but stayed confined to their vehicles or perched on rooftops. Men were frisked and women's bags were checked. Weapons were not allowed past checkpoints. The crowd, clearly vehement in its desire to see the end of the United States presence here, roared anti-U.S. chants that floated up and down the avenue. When the prayer ended and it came time to burn the effigy, protesters swarmed into the square, tore it down from its perch, and began stomping on top of it. A cloud of brown smoke rose after someone lit it on fire. More stomping followed. Then, it was time to go home.


-- Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed in Baghdad

Photo credits: Caesar Ahmed

LA Times, November 23, 2008

Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi Cabinet on Sunday approved a security pact that would set the terms for U.S. troops in Iraq.

The agreement sets June 30, 2009, as the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from all Iraqi cities and towns, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

The date for all troops to leave Iraq will be December 31, 2011, he said.

These dates are "set and fixed" and are "not subject to the circumstances on the ground," he said.

Twenty-seven of the 40 Cabinet members in attendance voted in favor of the agreement, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. One minister abstained.

The Cabinet consists of the prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and 37 other ministers.

The approved draft will be sent to the Council of Representatives, Iraq's 275-seat parliament, later Sunday, where it will be put to another vote. "There is great optimism that they will pass it," said Industry Minister Fawzi Hariri.

Al-Dabbagh said the parliament speaker and his deputies will decide when the parliament will vote on the agreement. He said there were "positive attitudes" when the major political blocs met to discuss the draft plan on Saturday.

Zebari said the parliament will reach a decision before it takes a 15-day recess on November 25.

In Washington, a spokesman for the National Security Council described the agreement as "an important and positive step."

"While the process is not yet complete, we remain hopeful and confident we'll soon have an agreement that serves both the people of Iraq and the United States well, and sends a signal to the region and the world that both our governments are committed to a stable, secure and democratic Iraq," said Gordon Johndroe.

"While there is still much work to be done, U.S. forces continue to return home and there will be 14 Brigade Combat Teams at the end of this year, down from 20 at the height of the surge," he added.

Earlier, Sami al-Askari, an adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, said the draft included changes that made it "satisfactory" for the Iraqis.

For months, the United States and Iraq have been negotiating a proposed status of forces agreement. It would set the terms for U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. mandate on their presence expires at the end of this year.

Many Iraqi officials say they will oppose any deal that hints at compromising the country's sovereignty.

Iraqi cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said in a statement on his official Web site last week that he will "forbid any stance that targets the sovereignty of Iraq no matter how small it is."

In late October, Iraqi officials submitted several amendments to the draft plan to U.S. negotiators in Baghdad.

Zebari said at the time that the proposed changes called for a fixed timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal; a specific number of sites and locations that would be used by the U.S. military; and Iraqi jurisdiction over U.S. forces who commit certain crimes in Iraq.

Al-Dabbagh said the Cabinet on Sunday also approved a "draft framework" agreement between the U.S. and Iraq.

This agreement "establishes the principles of cooperation and friendship in the political, diplomatic, educational, health and environmental fields in addition to economic, energy, information technology, communication fields," al-Dabbagh said.


- "Iraq's Cabinet approves U.S. security pact," CNN, Jomana Karadsheh, Thomas Evans and Mohammed Tawfeeq, November 16, 2008


© 2008 Cable News Network

Iraq has demanded a clear commitment from the US that its forces will have left its soil by the end of 2011.

The stance was revealed in a newly toughened-up version of a draft military pact that could eventually see the US presence forced to make their exit much sooner.

With time fast running out to seal the deal, the Iraqi Cabinet today gave Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, approval to submit a series of proposed amendments to the US side for further negotiation.

The changes would eliminate any possibility of the US military staying in the country for more than another three years, according to the source. A previous draft linked the pullout with security conditions on the ground, raising the possibility of the US troop presence being extended.

“The maximum duration is three years. It cannot be extended beyond the three years but it can be reduced,” an Iraqi source close to the matter said, explaining that under the suggested amendments either Baghdad or Washington would be able to accelerate the US withdrawal rate provided a 12-month notice period is given.

Iraq has also changed the Arabic title of the document to make it more appealing for an Iraqi audience, many of whom oppose the US presence in their country.

It will now be known as the “agreement around the temporary presence of US forces in Iraq, its activities and its withdrawal timeline”, the source said.

Further alterations have been made to clarify the immunity status of US soldiers on operation if they commit a crime punishable by Iraqi law. In addition, tighter restrictions would be placed on non-US military and civilian personnel entering and exiting Iraq on US military flights.

Mr Maliki informed a Cabinet meeting today that he had spoken to President Bush by telephone the previous day to let him know that Baghdad wanted to suggest changes to the status of forces agreement.

“He said Bush was welcoming and said: 'Okay we are ready to look into what you propose’,” the source said.

Iraq and the United States must sign the accord before the end of the year, when a United Nations Security Council mandate, authorising the presence of foreign forces in Iraq, is due to expire.

Failure to do so would force Iraq to resort to what it calls “plan B”, asking the Security Council for an emergency extension of the mandate to buy more time.

Officials are already thinking about whether to begin preparing the ground to be ready in case this becomes the only option. Both sides say publicly that the UN route is not desirable, but there is speculation that some Iraqi politicians would prefer to cut the deal with the new US administration than the outgoing one.

The source said the proposed amendments to the pact were “not fundamental”. They largely comprised “grammatical changes in the way it is presented and fine tuning some of the sentences to be far more precise and black and white than they are currently worded,” the source said. “For example, the word ‘should’ we have changed to ‘must’.”

Washington, however, remains wary of making any alterations to a text drawn up after months of tough negotiations and compromises.

Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said today: “We have not received any changes from the Iraqis. We think this is a good agreement, therefore the bar will be high.”

The United States is applying pressure on Iraq to push the pact through its Parliament, spelling out the repercussions of failing to reach an accord.

Last week, officials presented a list of activities to the Iraqi side that would become impossible for the US military to perform from January 1.

The US ambassador to Iraq also told a US newspaper that the lack of a legal basis would mean "we do nothing - no security training, no logistical support, no border protection, no training, equipping, manning checkpoints, no nothing".

Britain, which has just over 4,000 troops largely stationed in southern Iraq, would also be caught out by a failure to reach a deal. London hopes to base its status of forces agreement with Baghdad on the US-Iraq version.

- "Iraq demands all US troops out by 2011" by Deborah Haynes,

Demonstrators carry banners and Iraqi national flags during a protest march in Baghdad's Sadr City October 18, 2008. Thousands of followers of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets on Saturday in a demonstration against a pact that would allow U.S. forces to stay in Iraq for three more years.  REUTERS/Kareem Raheem (IRAQ)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Thousands of people marched in central Baghdad on Saturday to protest a proposed U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that would extend the presence of U.S. troops in the country after the end of the year.

The political party of Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for the rally. At one point, several speakers at a podium addressed the mass of people, urging the Iraqi government to reject the proposal.

"End the U.S. occupation of Iraq!" one speaker shouted in English.

Hazem al-Araji, a senior al-Sadr aide, told protesters their voices would be heard in America.

"Thanks to you, to these voices and the millions of voices, George Bush will hear these millions of calls in his 'Black House' -- in which you shouted out, 'No, no, America!'" he said.

"This talk and these words are that of the leader, Muqtada al-Sadr: Baghdad is free, free! America, get out. This voice does not reach the Green Zone. We want to hear everyone who is occupied in that area saying Baghdad is free, free, America get out!" al-Araji exclaimed.

Protesters clogged several streets in the capital, waving Iraqi flags and kicking up dust. The demonstration, the largest in Baghdad in several months, was largely peaceful.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in Washington on Thursday a draft status-of-forces agreement authorizing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq had "been agreed upon by U.S. and Iraqi negotiators" and was being reviewed by the two governments.

A U.N. mandate authorizing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq expires December 31, and U.S. officials are examining "contingencies" in case the Iraqi government is unable to sell the status-of-forces deal to the country's various factions, a senior Bush administration official said this week.

The same official said negotiations on the pact had finished and the text was final. The official said the "final" draft calls for U.S. troops to be out of Iraqi cities by June 2009 and out of Iraq by the end of 2011 unless the Iraqis ask the United States to stay.

The U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions, said negotiators had also "reached a compromise" on the issue of U.S. troops remaining immune from Iraqi law -- an issue that was a major hurdle in the talks.

Baghdad has sought the power to arrest and try Americans accused of crimes not related to official military operations, plus jurisdiction over troops and contractors who commit grave mistakes in the course of their duties.

The United States has insisted its troops and contractors remain immune from Iraqi law.


- "Protesters march against proposed U.S.-Iraq pact",  Elise Labott, CNN, October 18, 2008


© 2008 Cable News Network

(CNN) -- Iraqi leaders met Tuesday to review a draft of an agreement on the future of U.S. troops in Iraq, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said.

A senior Bush administration official said the text calls for U.S. troops to leave Iraqi cities, cease street patrols and return to their bases by June, unless Iraqis request their support.

The agreement also calls for U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, the senior official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

The official said that the Iraqis could ask U.S. troops to stay beyond 2011 depending on conditions on the ground but that the Iraqis would have "sole discretion" as to whether troops remain.

Al-Maliki met Tuesday with President Jalal Talabani and two vice presidents to review the "semi-final draft" of the agreement, al-Maliki adviser Yassin Majid said.

But the U.S. official said that the draft was final and that negotiations on the Status of Forces Agreement had finished.

"But that doesn't mean we have a deal until the Iraqis agree," the official said. "We may have a text, but do we really have an agreement? We don't until the Iraqis sign off."

With the United Nations mandate authorizing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq expiring December 31, U.S. officials are examining "contingencies" in case the Iraqi government is unable to sell the deal to the country's various factions, the U.S. official said.

One issue that had held up negotiations was whether U.S. troops will remain immune from Iraqi law. The U.S. official said negotiators had "reached a compromise" on the issue, but details of the immunity compromise weren't available.

Baghdad has sought the authority to arrest and try Americans accused of crimes unrelated to official military operations. It also wants jurisdiction over troops and contractors who commit grave mistakes in the course of their duties.

Over the weekend, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he thought the draft's language concerning the immunity issue "could be supported by Iraqi leaders."

"I think both sides offered whatever they have, so I think now we have a text that is reasonable," Zebari said.

Majid said al-Maliki will show the draft Wednesday to the Political Council for National Security, a body that includes al-Maliki, Talabani, the two vice presidents, leaders of political blocs and the parliament speaker.

If those groups are approve the draft, al-Maliki will submit it to his Cabinet and ask for members to approve it by a two-thirds majority, Majid said. As a final step, al-Maliki will submit it to the Iraqi parliament to approve the draft.

If Iraq's various executive councils and parliament do not approve the deal, fallback options include "a new U.N. Security Council resolution legally authorizing the extension of the U.S. footprint" or an "informal agreement between the United States and the Iraqis," the U.S. official said.

The official said that there is a general consensus within the Bush administration on the draft and that Congress expects to be briefed on the draft "soon."


- "Iraqi leaders consider troop deal with U.S.", Elise Labott and Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN, October 14, 2008


(C) 2008 Cable News Network

You know, last week, a remarkable event took place in Iraq. At a ceremony in the city of Ramadi, responsibility for security in Anbar Province was transferred to Iraqi civilian authorities. Iraqi forces are now leading security operations across Anbar, with American troops in an "overwatch" role. With this transfer of responsibility, the people of Anbar took charge of their own security and their own destiny. It's a moment of pride for all Iraqis -- and it was a moment of success in the war on terror.

Two years ago, such a moment was unimaginable to most. Anbar was one of the most dangerous provinces in Iraq. Al Qaeda was in control of almost every major population center. They had largely succeeded in turning the region into a safe haven, which brought them closer to one of their goals -- a place from which to launch new attacks against America, our allies, and our interests in the region. In 2006, a military intelligence report concluded that the province was lost -- and Anbar was held up as proof of America's failure in Iraq.

Yet something remarkable was happening. The tribes in Anbar were growing tired of al Qaeda's brutality. They wanted to live a normal life. And this presented us with an opportunity to defeat al Qaeda in Anbar. Last year we sent 4,000 additional Marines to Anbar as part of the surge. The surge showed America's commitment to security. It showed we were committed to helping the average citizen in Anbar live a normal life. And it helped renew the confidence of local leaders, the tribal sheiks, who then led an uprising to take Anbar back from the terrorists. And together, local tribes, Iraqi troops, and American forces systematically dismantled al Qaeda control across the province.

Today, Anbar is a province transformed. Attacks in the province have dropped by more than 90 percent. Casualties are down dramatically. Virtually every city and town in Anbar now has a mayor and a functioning municipal council. Provincial Reconstruction Teams are helping local leaders create jobs and economic opportunity. As security has improved, reconciliation is taking place across the province. Today, Anbar is no longer lost to al Qaeda -- it has been reclaimed by the Iraqi people.

We're seeing similar gains in other parts of Iraq. Earlier this year, the Iraqi government launched a successful military operation against Shia extremist groups in places like Basra, and Baghdad, and al-Amarah. Iraqi forces are staying on the offense. They are pressing the advantage against those who would bring harm and danger to their citizens. They're conducting operations in and around the northern city of Mosul, where al Qaeda terrorists seek refuge. The Iraqi Army recently launched a new offensive against al Qaeda in Diyala Province. All these operations are Iraqi-led, with American forces playing a supporting role.

As a result of these and other operations in Iraq, violence is down to its lowest point since the spring of 2004. Civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down, suicide bombings are down, and normal life is returning to communities across the country. Provincial reconciliation is moving forward. The Iraqi government has passed budgets and major pieces of legislation. Our diplomatic -- diplomats report that markets once shuttered by terrorist violence are now open for business. Yesterday, Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus reported to me via STVS that they had just gone into a market area, and seen the commerce and the activities. The Iraqi Health Ministry issued an interesting report that said that hundreds of doctors who had fled the fighting have now returned to serve the people of their country.

The reduced levels of violence in Iraq have been sustained for several months. While the progress in Iraq is still fragile and reversible, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker report that there now appears to be a "degree of durability" to the gains we have made.

Here's the bottom line: While the enemy in Iraq dangerous, we have seized the offensive. Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly capable of leading and winning the fight. As a result, we've been able to carry out a policy of "return on success" -- reducing American combat forces in Iraq as conditions on the ground continue to improve.

We've now brought home all five of the Army combat brigades, the Marine Expeditionary Unit, two Marine battalions, that were sent to Iraq as part of the surge. I was proud to visit with some of those troops at Fort Bragg earlier this year. They are among our nation's finest citizens, and they have earned the gratitude and respect of the American people.

Another aspect of our "return on success" policy in Iraq is reduced combat tours. Last month, troops began deploying for 12-month tours instead of 15-month tours. This change will ease the burden on our forces, and I think more importantly, this change will make life for our military families easier.I'm pleased to announce the next step forward in our policy of "return on success." General Petraeus has just completed a review of the situation in Iraq -- and he and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended that we move forward with additional force reductions, and I agree. Over the next several months, we'll bring home about 3,400 combat support forces -- including aviation personnel, explosive ordnance teams, combat and construction engineers, military police, and logistical support forces.

By November, we'll bring home a Marine battalion that is now serving in Anbar Province. And in February of 2009, another Army combat brigade will come home. This amounts to about 8,000 additional American troops returning home without replacement. And if progress in Iraq continues to hold, General Petraeus and our military leaders believe additional reductions will be possible in the first half of 2009.

The progress in Iraq is a credit to the valor of American troops and civilians, the valor of Iraqi troops, and the valor of our coalition partners. And I thank those who are here from other nations for joining us, and I thank you for working with our troops.  We welcome you to the United States. And we appreciate you working closely with those who wear the uniform.

Since Operation Iraqi Freedom began -- I want our fellow citizens to hear this fact -- more than 140,000 troops from 41 countries have served as part of our coalition in Iraq. Sons and daughters of Australia, Azerbaijan, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, and Ukraine have given their lives in the fight against the extremists.  The citizens of these countries have sacrificed for the cause of freedom in Iraq. America has been proud to serve alongside such courageous allies.

I congratulate our coalition partners on their historic accomplishments in Iraq, and for maintaining their resolve during the dark days. Thanks to their determined work and the growing capability of Iraqi forces, many of our partners in Iraq are now in a position to "return on success" as well. Australia has withdrawn its battle group, the Polish contingent is set to redeploy shortly, and many more coalition nations will be able to conclude their deployments to Iraq this year -- thanks to the skill of their troops and the success of their missions.

The important task in the period ahead will be to work toward the conclusion of a strategic framework agreement and a status of forces agreement between the United States and Iraq. These agreements will serve as the foundation for America's continued security support to Iraq once the United Nations resolution authorizing the multinational forces there expires on December 31st of this year. They will allow us to establish a bilateral relationship between the United States and Iraq like those we have with dozens of other countries around the world.

Early on in this struggle, I made clear that America's goal in Iraq was to help the Iraqi people build a democratic nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. And thanks to the success of the surge, Iraq is making steady progress toward that goal.  The steps I've described here at NDU will help us build on this success. It will set America's engagement in Iraq on a strong and steady course, and it will allow our troops to come home in victory.


- George W. Bush,  National Defense University's Distinguished Lecture Program, Discusses Global War on Terror, September 9, 2008


BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have agreed to a preliminary draft of an agreement on the future of U.S. troops in Iraq, a senior U.S. military official said.

Officials from the two countries seem to disagree on what the agreement will say, however.

Earlier, Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Haj Hamood indicated that it included a date of June 30 for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities and villages. But the U.S. official said there are no dates in the agreement, only general time frames that would take into account conditions on the ground.

The U.S. source, though, said the June 30 date is a goal, but not set in stone.

"Not a deadline, it's not a timeline," he said. "It's conditions-permitting."

The source said the plan has the approval of U.S. negotiators but President Bush has not signed-off on it. He said it could take a while for the plan to be approved by Iraq's government.

"We are not there yet," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

Deputy White House press secretary Gordon Johndroe said talks to finalize the deal are continuing.

In recent weeks, Iraqi government officials said that early versions of the plan would have called for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2010 and for the remainder of troops to depart by the end of 2011. By June 20, 2009, troops would be restricted to their bases and prohibited from patrolling Iraq's streets.

The Iraqi government also would be able to request that U.S. troops remain longer under the preliminary agreement talks.

The U.S. military presence in Iraq is spelled out by a U.N. mandate that is set to expire by the end of this year. Iraq and the United States want to replace that mandate with an agreement that would provide a framework for how U.S. troops operate within the country.

Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has asked religious authorities to issue an edict against the signing of a bilateral agreement.

He's asking the marjaya, the Shiite entity that includes Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to stand against any agreement that would establish guidelines and strictures in all areas, including security. Al-Sadr also has said he would support the Iraqi government, with which he has been at odds, if it refused to sign such an agreement.


- U.S. official: Draft of deal for Iraq pullout reached, by Barbara Starr, CNN, August 20, 2008


© 2008 Cable News Network.

(AP) Iraq's foreign minister insisted Sunday that any security deal with the United States must contain a "very clear timeline" for the departure of U.S. troops. A suicide bomber struck north of Baghdad, killing at least five people including an American soldier.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that American and Iraqi negotiators were "very close" to reaching a long-term security agreement that will set the rules for U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

Zebari said the Iraqis were insisting that the agreement include a "very clear timeline" for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces, but he refused to talk about specific dates.

"We have said that this is a condition-driven process," he added, suggesting that the departure schedule could be modified if the security situation changed.

But Zebari made clear that the Iraqis would not accept a deal that lacks a timeline for the end of the U.S. military presence.

"No, no definitely there has to be a very clear timeline," Zebari replied when asked if the Iraqis would accept an agreement that did not mention dates.

Differences over a withdrawal timetable have become one of the most contentious issues remaining in the talks, which began early this year. U.S. and Iraqi negotiators missed a July 31 target date for completing the deal, which must be approved by Iraq's parliament.

President Bush has steadfastly refused to accept any timetable for bringing U.S. troops home. Last month, however, Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to set a "general time horizon" for a U.S. departure.

Last week, two senior Iraqi officials told The Associated Press that American negotiators had agreement to a formula which would remove U.S. forces from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009 with all combat troops out of the country by October 2010.

The last American support troops would leave about three years later, the Iraqis said.

But U.S. officials insist there is no agreement on specific dates. Both the American and Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing. Iraq's Shiite-led government believes a withdrawal schedule is essential to win parliamentary approval.

American officials have been less optimistic because of major differences on key issues including who can authorize U.S. military operations and immunity for U.S. troops from prosecution under Iraqi law.

The White House said discussions continued on a bilateral agreement and said any timeframe discussed was due to major improvements in security over the past year.

"We are only now able to discuss conditions-based time horizons because security has improved so much. This would not have been possible 18 months ago," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Sunday. "We all look forward to the day when Iraqi security forces take the lead on more combat missions, allowing U.S. troops to serve in an overwatch role, and more importantly return home."

Iraq's position in the U.S. talks hardened after a series of Iraqi military successes against Shiite and Sunni extremists in Basra, Baghdad, Mosul and other major cities.

Violence in Iraq has declined sharply over the past year following a U.S. troop buildup, a Sunni revolt against al Qaeda in Iraq and a Shiite militia cease-fire.

But attacks continue, raising concern that the militants are trying to regroup.


- Iraq Wants Timeline For U.S. Pullout, CBS News, August 10, 2008


©MMVIII, The Associated Press.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq and the United States are close to reaching a deal under which U.S. combat troops would leave by December 2010 and the rest would leave by the end of 2011, two Iraqi officials said Thursday.

One of the officials, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Haj Mahmoud, said the two governments probably will reach a final deal within days.

He and Haider Al-Ababdi, a Shiite parliament member from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa Party, said that under the deal, U.S. troops would be restricted to their bases by June 30 instead of patrolling Iraq's streets.

Mahmoud, the head of Iraq's delegation negotiating a deal on how U.S. troops will operate there, also said the Iraqi government would be able to request that some troops stay longer.

Two senior U.S. officials said negotiators have made progress and are close to a deal. But they also said that some issues are unresolved and that troop withdrawals would be tied to conditions on the ground.

The U.S. military presence is spelled out by a U.N. mandate, which is to expire by the end of this year. Iraq and the United States want to replace that mandate with a status-of-forces agreement governing how U.S. troops will operate in Iraq.

The U.S. officials said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke with al-Maliki on Wednesday to try to resolve the issue of legal immunity for U.S. contractors working in Iraq.

The officials described the phone call as tense.

Under a provision put into place in the early days of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, security contractors have had immunity from Iraqi law.

The Iraqi government has criticized the blanket immunity because of incidents such as the fatal shootings of 17 people in Baghdad's Nusoor Square on September 16. Iraqi officials say Blackwater Worldwide contractors killed the 17.


- U.S. troops may leave by 2011, Iraqi officials say, CNN, August 7, 2008

by Mohammed Tawfeeq, Arwa Damon, and Elise Labott


© 2008 Cable News Network.

This has been a month of encouraging news from Iraq. Violence is down to its lowest level since the spring of 2004, and we're now in our third consecutive month with reduced violence levels holding steady. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker caution that the progress is still reversible, but they report that there now appears to be a "degree of durability" to the gains we have made.

A significant reason for this sustained progress is the success of the surge. Another is the increasing capability of the Iraqi forces. Iraqi forces now have 192 combat battalions in the fight -- and more than 110 of these battalions are taking the lead in combat operations against terrorists and extremists.

We saw the capability of those forces earlier this year, when the Iraqi government launched successful military operations against Shia extremist groups in Basra, Amarah, and the Sadr City area of Baghdad. Because of these operations, extremists who once terrorized the citizens of these communities have been driven from their strongholds. As a result, our Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was able to walk the streets of Sadr City last Wednesday, as something that would not have been possible just a few months ago.

This week, the Iraqi government is launching a new offensive in parts of the Diyala province that contain some of al Qaeda's few remaining safe havens in the country. This operation is Iraqi-led; our forces are playing a supporting role. And in the moments -- in the months ahead, the Iraqis will continue taking the lead in more military operations across the country.

As security in Iraq has improved, the Iraqi government has made political progress as well. The Iraqi Council of Representatives has passed several major pieces of legislation this year, and Iraqi leaders are preparing for provincial elections. And Prime Minister Maliki recently returned from a successful visit to Europe, where he held important diplomatic discussions with Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Berlusconi, and His Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

The progress in Iraq has allowed us to continue our policy of "return on success." We now have brought home all five of the combat brigades and the three Marine units that were sent to Iraq as part of the surge. The last of these surge brigades returned home this month. And later this year, General Petraeus will present me his recommendations on future troop levels -- including further reductions in our combat forces as conditions permit.

As part of the "return on success" policy, we are also reducing the length of combat tours in Iraq. Beginning tomorrow, troops deploying to Iraq will serve 12-month tours instead of 15-month tours. This will ease the burden on our forces -- and it will make life easier for our wonderful military families.

We're also making progress in our discussion with Prime Minister Maliki's government on a strategic framework agreement. This agreement will serve as the foundation for America's presence in Iraq once the United Nations resolution authorizing the multinational forces there expires on December the 31st.

We remain a nation at war. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq -- but the terrorists remain dangerous, and they are determined to strike our country and our allies again. In this time of war, America is grateful to all the men and women who have stepped forward to defend us. They understand that we have no greater responsibility than to stop the terrorists before they launch another attack on our homeland. And every day they make great sacrifices to keep the American people safe here at home. We owe our thanks to all those who wear the uniform -- and their families who support them in their vital work. And the best way to honor them is to support their mission -- and bring them home with victory.


- George W. Bush, President Bush Discusses Iraq, July 31, 2008



Iraq Leader Maliki Supports Obama's Withdrawal Plans

In an interview with SPIEGEL, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Barack Obama's 16 month timeframe for a withdrawal from Iraq is the right one.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports US presidential candidate Barack Obama's plan to withdraw US troops from Iraq within 16 months. When asked in and interview with SPIEGEL when he thinks US troops should leave Iraq, Maliki responded "as soon as possible, as far as we are concerned." He then continued: "US presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he agrees with US presidential candidate Barack Obama's plans for withdrawing US troops from Iraq.

Maliki was careful to back away from outright support for Obama. "Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans' business," he said. But then, apparently referring to Republican candidate John McCain's more open-ended Iraq policy, Maliki said: "Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems."

Iraq, Maliki went on to say, "would like to see the establishment of a long-term strategic treaty with the United States, which would govern the basic aspects of our economic and cultural relations." He also emphasized though that the security agreement between the two countries should only "remain in effect in the short term."

The comments by the Iraqi leader come as Obama embarks on a trip to both Afghanistan and Iraq as well as to Europe. Obama was in Afghanistan on Saturday to, as he said prior to his trip, "see what the situation on the ground is … and thank our troops for the heroic work that they've been doing." The exact itinerary of the candidate's trip has not been made public out of security concerns, but it is widely expected that he will arrive in Iraq on Sunday to meet with Maliki.

Maliki has long shown impatience with the open-ended presence of US troops in Iraq. In his conversation with SPIEGEL, he was once again candid about his frustration over the Bush administration's hesitancy about agreeing to a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. But he did say he was optimistic that such a schedule would be drawn up before Bush leaves the White House next January -- a confidence that appeared justified following Friday's joint announcement in Baghdad and Washington that Bush has now, for the first time, spoken of "a general time horizon" for moving US troops out of Iraq.

"So far the Americans have had trouble agreeing to a concrete timetable for withdrawal, because they feel it would appear tantamount to an admission of defeat," Maliki told SPIEGEL. "But that isn't the case at all. If we come to an agreement, it is not evidence of a defeat, but of a victory, of a severe blow we have inflicted on al-Qaida and the militias."

He also bemoaned the fact that Baghdad has little control over the US troops in Iraq. "It is a fundamental problem for us that it should not be possible, in my country, to prosecute offences or crimes committed by US soldiers against our population," Maliki said.


- cgh/SPIEGEL, July 19, 2008



President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki spoke yesterday in their regularly scheduled secure video conference, about a range of matters including the improving security situation and the performance of Iraqi Security Forces across Iraq, from Basra, to Maysan, Baghdad and Sadr City, and Mosul. The two leaders welcomed the recent visit of Prime Minister Erdogan to Baghdad and the successful visit of Prime Minister Maliki to the UAE. They also discussed ongoing initiatives to follow security gains with Iraqi investment in its people, infrastructure, cities, and towns, which will be aided by a $21 billion supplemental budget now before the Iraqi parliament.

In the context of these improving political, economic, and security conditions, the President and the Prime Minister discussed the ongoing negotiations to establish a normalized bilateral relationship between Iraq and the United States. The leaders agreed on a common way forward to conclude these negotiations as soon as possible, and noted in particular the progress made toward completing a broad strategic framework agreement that will build on the Declaration of Principles signed last November, and include areas of cooperation across many fields, including economics, diplomacy, health, culture, education, and security.

In the area of security cooperation, the President and the Prime Minister agreed that improving conditions should allow for the agreements now under negotiation to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals -- such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq. The President and Prime Minister agreed that the goals would be based on continued improving conditions on the ground and not an arbitrary date for withdrawal. The two leaders welcomed in this regard the return of the final surge brigade to the United States this month, and the ongoing transition from a primary combat role for U.S. forces to an overwatch role, which focuses on training and advising Iraqi forces, and conducting counter-terror operations in support of those forces.

This transition and the subsequent reduction in U.S. forces from Iraq is a testament to the improving capacity of Iraq's Security Forces and the success of joint operations that were initiated under the new strategy put in place by the President and the Prime Minister in January 2007.


- Statement by the White House Press Secretary on Iraq, July 18, 2008


BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A deadline should be set for the withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces from Iraq, and the pullout could be done by 2011, an Iraqi government spokesman said Tuesday.

Ali al-Dabbagh said any timetable would depend on "conditions and the circumstances that the country would be undergoing." But he said a pullout within "three, four or five" years was possible.

"It can be 2011 or 2012," al-Dabbagh said. "We don't have a specific date in mind, but we need to agree on the principle of setting a deadline."

Al-Dabbagh's comments come as the United States and Iraq try to negotiate a framework governing the stationing of U.S. and allied troops beyond the end of 2008, when the current U.N. mandate for coalition forces expires.

Al-Dabbagh said any such deal should include a withdrawal deadline. A day earlier, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki also said he favored a short-term accord that would spell out a withdrawal schedule for U.S. troops. Watch report on how al-Maliki favors a timetable »

But in Washington, State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said U.S. negotiators are "looking at conditions, not calendars."

"Two things we've made very clear from the beginning of the process -- the first is that we're going to deal as sovereign nations working towards an agreement that satisfies both of our needs, and secondly that we're not going to be discussing individual parts of this negotiations during the negotiation process itself," Gallegos said.

Since taking control of U.S. Congress in 2007, Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to impose timetables for troop withdrawals. Some of the attempts were thwarted by filibusters from Republicans in the Senate.

Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate, told reporters: "I agree with Maliki."

"We should have a timeline. We've been wanting one for a long time," said Reid, D-Nevada.

Reid said it is time for the United States to "take off the training wheels and let Iraq handle their own affairs."

The Pentagon has repeatedly said conditions in Iraq including political and security milestones -- not timetables -- would guide whether the United States will remove troops. Those milestones include reduced levels of sectarian violence, political reconciliation and stronger Iraqi forces.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Tuesday the Iraqis have made clear that any withdrawal would be "based on conditions on the ground."

Maliki is "a politician," McCain told MSNBC. "He is a leader of a country that's finally coming together. The fact is that we and the Iraqis will deal in what is in the national security interests of both countries."

The United States is in the process of withdrawing the last of its five "surge" brigades -- those sent to Iraq in 2007 to bolster U.S. forces there. On Monday, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said violence in Iraq was down to its lowest point in four years and a decision whether to drop the number of troops below the level immediately preceding the surge would come later this year.

The Bush administration has been trying to strike a security deal with Iraq by the end of July, but disputes over the basing of U.S. troops and what authority they would have within Iraq make it unlikely an agreement will be reached by then, al-Dabbagh said.

"We still have our points of disagreement, and we are working on reaching the middle ground that will always guarantee us Iraq's sovereignty," al-Dabbagh said.

CNN's Saad Abedine and Mike Mount contributed to this report.


- Iraq official: U.S. could be out by 2011, CNN, July 8, 2008


© 2008 Cable News Network.

BOULTON: Another thing which is being suggested, coinciding with this visit, is that in Iraq, Britain and America are somehow going different directions; that you've committed to the surge at a time when our new Prime Minister Gordon Brown is drawing down the troops. I mean, do you think we've drawn them down too quickly?

THE PRESIDENT: No, look, I am really appreciative of the relationship I have with Gordon Brown, and particularly on this issue. The worst thing allies can do is not communicate about our plans and our desires. We all want to take troops out of Iraq, and we are. You're right, put more in for the surge. He, by the way, left a lot of troops in, more so than they thought they were going to leave in initially. And so we communicate now. And if there's success, we're going to pull troops out.


- Sky News Political editor Adam Boulton's interview with US President George W. Bush, June 16, 2008


Copyright © 2008 BSkyB

About 500 Australian combat troops pulled out of their base in southern Iraq on Sunday, fulfilling an election promise by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to bring the soldiers home this year.

A British military spokesman in the southern city of Basra said the pullout from Talil base in Nassiriya was under way, but a spokesman for the governor of Dhi Qar province said it had been completed, with U.S. forces replacing the Australians.

"The Australian battle group is pulling out," the British military spokesman said.

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, was one of the first countries to commit troops to the Iraq war. In addition to the combat troops, it also deployed aircraft and warships to the Gulf to protect Iraq's offshore oil platforms.

Since handing over security of Dhi Qar province to the Iraqis, the main role of the Australian battle group, numbering about 515 soldiers, has been to train and support Iraqi forces.

Rudd, who won elections last November, had promised to bring home frontline troops this year. Polls show 80 percent of Australians oppose the war.

Australia's top military commander, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said in February that after the troops pulled out, Australia would leave behind two maritime surveillance aircraft and a warship helping patrol the oil platforms, as well as a small force of security and headquarters liaison troops.

The British military spokesman said Australian civilians training the police and advising the Iraqi government would also stay behind.

(Reporting by Haider al-Nasrallah in Nassiriya and Ross Colvin in Baghdad, editing by Adrian Croft)

"Australian troops pull out of Iraq", Reuters,  June 1, 2008


Copyright © 2008 Reuters Limited.

The number of British troops in Iraq will not be reduced as planned, due to violence in Basra, Defence Secretary Des Browne has told MPs.

Since October the government has cut troop numbers from 5,000 to 4,000. But plans for a further reduction to 2,500 have been halted, he confirmed.

During the weekend, forces became directly involved in fighting between the Iraqi army and Shia militiamen.

The Lib Dems have asked whether the role of UK troops in Iraq has changed.

'Prudent to pause'

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr Browne said the government was still committed to reducing troop numbers, but recent events had prompted it to reconsider its plans.

"Before the events of the last week, the emerging military advice, based on our assessment of current conditions then, was that further reductions might not be possible at the rate envisaged in the October announcement - although it remains our clear direction of travel and our plan.

"In the light of the last week's events, however, it is prudent that we pause any further reductions while the current situation is unfolding.

"It is absolutely right that military commanders review plans when conditions on the ground change."

Future requirements would be assessed with coalition partners and Iraqis. Mr Browne said he expected to update MPs later in April.

'Show of force'

Iraqi government forces have been trying to wrest control of Basra and other Shia areas from the Mehdi Army - a Shia militia loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr.

UK troops have provided surveillance, flown fast jet missions over Basra as "shows of force" and used helicopters to help re-supply the Iraqi security forces, Mr Browne said.

He outlined recent involvement by the UK forces, saying tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery had been used to provide "in extremis" support to Iraqi units on the ground, while one of the Iraqi headquarters was resupplied by another UK battlegroup.

Logistic support was also provided in the supply of food, water and ammunition and medical care was given to wounded Iraqi personnel.

At the weekend, a British army spokesman said UK artillery had fired upon a mortar crew in the al-Khalaf area of northern Basra, which had attacked Iraqi soldiers.

It was the first time British troops had directly joined the fighting since the Iraqi army operation began on Tuesday.

Basra was taken by British forces in 2003. They withdrew from the city to the airport last autumn, and handed over security to Iraqi forces in December.

'Mopping up'

Responding to the announcement, shadow defence spokesman Liam Fox questioned the way British forces were being used in southern Iraq.

"It's surely not acceptable for us simply to end up mopping up, if we don't have a say in what operations are being carried out and how they're being carried out.

"It appears from what the Secretary of State has just told us that our commanders had only 48 hours notice (of the Iraqi offensive) and they yet had to deploy one battle group with tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery - is this an acceptable model for the future?"

The Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, Nick Harvey, asked whether the role of the troops had changed.

"The statement today again refers to the concept of 'overwatch', which I think people will previously have understood to have involved training, surveillance, logistic support, and being available on standby.

"But today he's told us about fast jet missions, and the deployment of tanks, armoured vehicles, and artillery. Is this really still 'overwatch' in the sense that will generally have been understood?"

- "Iraq UK troop reduction delayed", BBC, April 1, 2008



Most likely, the war will go on for years, say many commanders and military analysts. In fact, it's possible to consider this just the midpoint. The U.S. combat role in Iraq could have another half decade ahead, or maybe more, depending on the resilience of the insurgency and the U.S. political will to maintain the fight.

Iraq, experts say, is no longer a young war. Nor it is entering an endgame. It may still be in sturdy middle age.

"Four years, optimistically" before the Pentagon can begin a significant troop withdrawal from Iraq, predicted Eric Rosenbach, executive director of the Center for International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School, "and more like seven or eight years" until Iraqi forces can handle the bulk of their own security.


- Five years and counting in Iraq , By BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press Writer, March 17, 2008


At a news conference with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, Cheney said that given the nearly 4,000 U.S. troop deaths and billions of dollars spent on the war, it is very important that "we not quit before the job is done."

Cheney credited reductions in violence to President Bush's decision to deploy an additional 30,000 troops to the war zone. He said one of Bush's considerations in whether to draw back more than the 30,000 before he leaves office will be whether the U.S. can continue on a track toward political reconciliation and stability in Iraq.

"It would be a mistake now to be so eager to draw down the force that we risk putting the outcome in jeopardy," said Cheney, on an unannounced visit to Iraq. "And I don't think we'll do that."

- Bomb kills 39 in Iraqi city of Karbala, By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer, March 17, 2008


Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - President Bush's top diplomat in Iraq said Friday that the U.S. plans to keep combat troops there into 2009, seen as the tipping point for establishing the nation's long-term security, and he offered no deadline for a full withdrawal.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker told The Associated Press that he can't make any promises if, as the Democratic candidates have signaled, the next president pulls forces out faster or in greater numbers.

Crocker said America remains "a center of gravity" in Iraq almost five years after invasion, and that violence and political development both hinge to a considerable degree on whether U.S. forces remain there.

Crocker said he and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, would make the best of any change in plans ordered from the top.

"Obviously, we're not the ones who make the policy decisions — not in this administration and not in the next one," Crocker said. "If someone wants to reset the conditions, then obviously we'll do the best we can within the context but those aren't assumptions that we start with."

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., have said they would begin withdrawing forces quickly if elected — Obama would bring all combat forces home within 16 months. Clinton has not set a deadline but says she wants to bring most home inside one year.

Both candidates would phase out the withdrawals — and leave a small number of forces behind for specific missions. Either Clinton or Obama is expected to become the Democratic nominee.

Republican front-runners Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney say they would essentially continue Bush's strategy of bringing troops home only as conditions warrant.

The Iraq chiefs are working off a blueprint that calls for "conditions-based withdrawal," Crocker said. That could bring combat troops home by sometime next year if security conditions allow it but leave other forces in Iraq for long-haul missions such as training.

Crocker said the two men stand by an earlier assessment that Iraq would be more or less secure and stable by summer of 2009. American combat troops will be needed at least into 2009 to battle a resilient al-Qaida and still-vibrant insurgency, he said.

Crocker and Petraeus will make their next report to Congress in April. Crocker would not speculate on whether Bush's planned force drawdown would continue after this summer, and he offered no firm predictions on how long any troops would remain.

Bush has indicated he is willing to leave more troops in Iraq at the close of his presidency than envisioned only weeks or months ago. The president said last month that it's fine with him if Petraeus wants to "slow her down" to meet current security needs.

One Army brigade and two Marine battalions have already returned home and will not be replaced. Four other Army brigades are to depart by July, leaving 15 brigades, or roughly 130,000 to 135,000 troops in Iraq. Those troops were part of Bush's 2007 escalation to confront a steep rise in violence, especially in Baghdad.

The escalation worked, within limits, to reduce violence in the capital and allow what Crocker called a returning sense of normalcy. He spoke, however, hours after coordinated suicide bombings that killed dozens at outdoor markets in Baghdad. It was the single deadliest day in Iraq since Washington flooded the capital with 30,000 extra troops last spring.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the bombings prove al-Qaida is "the most brutal and bankrupt of movements" and will strengthen Iraqi resolve to reject terrorism. The bombs were strapped to two mentally disabled women and set off by remote control. The women may have been unknowing agents of death.

Crocker will be the top U.S. negotiator in talks on the American presence with the Iraqis expected to begin this month. He said he expected an eventual "status of forces agreement" to allow for great flexibility in pursuing insurgents while not setting definite troop levels.

"I don't think al-Qaida is going to have gone away after this year, and we and the Iraqis are going to want to make sure we are able to pursue them, but questions of force levels and what not, those will be executive decisions by this president and by the next," he said. "This agreement is in no way going to get into that executive decision prerogative."

- Envoy: US troops to be in Iraq into '09, By ANNE GEARAN and MATTHEW LEE, AP, February 1, 2008


Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press

Also Thursday, a spokesman for the Polish military said Poland will withdraw its troops from Iraq by the end of October.

October 31 will be the last day of the Polish presence in Iraq, Major Dariusz Kacperczyk said, speaking from Warsaw.

There are around 900 Polish troops in the war-torn country, with most in the Qadisiya capital of Diwaniya, some in Baghdad and others in the southern city of Kut. Twenty-two soldiers from Poland have lost their lives during the nearly five year war in Iraq.


- Female suicide bombers kill dozens in Baghdad markets, CNN, February 1, 2008

CNN's Ahmed Taha and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.


© 2008 Cable News Network

CANBERRA - Australia's new Labor Government has formally told the United States it intends to bring its combat troops home from Iraq by the middle of the year.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington that the more than 500 troops and armour in the southern province of Dhi Qar would fly back to Australia when the present rotation ended.

Smith's confirmation of longstanding Labor policy - a direct u-turn on former conservative Prime Minister John Howard's open-ended commitment to Iraq - came as the Government also indicated a re-think of the nation's defence needs.


The statements by Smith and Fitzgibbon underline a shift in Australian defence thinking, balancing the US alliance and foreign commitments against a more independent foreign policy and a force structured more closely to the nation's strategic needs.

Iraq is an unpopular war and one which is regarded by most Australians as exposing the nation to greater danger of terror attack.

But Labor has been at pains to ensure that Washington does not see withdrawal as an abandonment of the US or any lessening of the importance Canberra attaches to an "indispensable" alliance. Smith told Rice that Australia would consider other ways of helping Iraq in such areas as governance, infrastructure and other civilian aid projects - but that the troops would come home.

"That's being done in consultation, not just with the US, but also with the United Kingdom and it's being done in a way to absolutely minimise any disruption or difficulty," he said.

- Australian troops to leave Iraq in months, By Greg Ansley, January 30, 2008


Copyright ©2007, APN Holdings NZ Limited

In Iraq, the terrorists and extremists are fighting to deny a proud people their liberty, and fighting to establish safe havens for attacks across the world. One year ago, our enemies were succeeding in their efforts to plunge Iraq into chaos. So we reviewed our strategy and changed course. We launched a surge of American forces into Iraq. We gave our troops a new mission: Work with the Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people, pursue the enemy in its strongholds, and deny the terrorists sanctuary anywhere in the country.

The Iraqi people quickly realized that something dramatic had happened. Those who had worried that America was preparing to abandon them instead saw tens of thousands of American forces flowing into their country. They saw our forces moving into neighborhoods, clearing out the terrorists, and staying behind to ensure the enemy did not return. And they saw our troops, along with Provincial Reconstruction Teams that include Foreign Service officers and other skilled public servants, coming in to ensure that improved security was followed by improvements in daily life. Our military and civilians in Iraq are performing with courage and distinction, and they have the gratitude of our whole nation.

The Iraqis launched a surge of their own. In the fall of 2006, Sunni tribal leaders grew tired of al Qaeda's brutality and started a popular uprising called "The Anbar Awakening." Over the past year, similar movements have spread across the country. And today, the grassroots surge includes more than 80,000 Iraqi citizens who are fighting the terrorists. The government in Baghdad has stepped forward, as well -- adding more than 100,000 new Iraqi soldiers and police during the past year.

While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago.  When we met last year, many said that containing the violence was impossible. A year later, high profile terrorist attacks are down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down.

When we met last year, militia extremists -- some armed and trained by Iran -- were wreaking havoc in large areas of Iraq. A year later, coalition and Iraqi forces have killed or captured hundreds of militia fighters. And Iraqis of all backgrounds increasingly realize that defeating these militia fighters is critical to the future of their country.

When we met last year, al Qaeda had sanctuaries in many areas of Iraq, and their leaders had just offered American forces safe passage out of the country. Today, it is al Qaeda that is searching for safe passage. They have been driven from many of the strongholds they once held, and over the past year, we've captured or killed thousands of extremists in Iraq, including hundreds of key al Qaeda leaders and operatives.

Last month, Osama bin Laden released a tape in which he railed against Iraqi tribal leaders who have turned on al Qaeda and admitted that coalition forces are growing stronger in Iraq. Ladies and gentlemen, some may deny the surge is working, but among the terrorists there is no doubt. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, and this enemy will be defeated.

When we met last year, our troop levels in Iraq were on the rise. Today, because of the progress just described, we are implementing a policy of "return on success," and the surge forces we sent to Iraq are beginning to come home.

This progress is a credit to the valor of our troops and the brilliance of their commanders. This evening, I want to speak directly to our men and women on the front lines. Soldiers and sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen: In the past year, you have done everything we've asked of you, and more. Our nation is grateful for your courage. We are proud of your accomplishments. And tonight in this hallowed chamber, with the American people as our witness, we make you a solemn pledge: In the fight ahead, you will have all you need to protect our nation.  And I ask Congress to meet its responsibilities to these brave men and women by fully funding our troops.

Our enemies in Iraq have been hit hard. They are not yet defeated, and we can still expect tough fighting ahead. Our objective in the coming year is to sustain and build on the gains we made in 2007, while transitioning to the next phase of our strategy. American troops are shifting from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and, eventually, to a protective overwatch mission. As part of this transition, one Army brigade combat team and one Marine Expeditionary Unit have already come home and will not be replaced. In the coming months, four additional brigades and two Marine battalions will follow suit. Taken together, this means more than 20,000 of our troops are coming home.

Any further drawdown of U.S. troops will be based on conditions in Iraq and the recommendations of our commanders. General Petraeus has warned that too fast a drawdown could result in the "disintegration of the Iraqi security forces, al Qaeda-Iraq regaining lost ground, [and] a marked increase in violence." Members of Congress: Having come so far and achieved so much, we must not allow this to happen.

In the coming year, we will work with Iraqi leaders as they build on the progress they're making toward political reconciliation. At the local level, Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds are beginning to come together to reclaim their communities and rebuild their lives. Progress in the provinces must be matched by progress in Baghdad. We're seeing some encouraging signs. The national government is sharing oil revenues with the provinces. The parliament recently passed both a pension law and de-Baathification reform. They're now debating a provincial powers law. The Iraqis still have a distance to travel. But after decades of dictatorship and the pain of sectarian violence, reconciliation is taking place -- and the Iraqi people are taking control of their future.

The mission in Iraq has been difficult and trying for our nation. But it is in the vital interest of the United States that we succeed. A free Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven. A free Iraq will show millions across the Middle East that a future of liberty is possible. A free Iraq will be a friend of America, a partner in fighting terror, and a source of stability in a dangerous part of the world.

By contrast, a failed Iraq would embolden the extremists, strengthen Iran, and give terrorists a base from which to launch new attacks on our friends, our allies, and our homeland. The enemy has made its intentions clear. At a time when the momentum seemed to favor them, al Qaida's top commander in Iraq declared that they will not rest until they have attacked us here in Washington. My fellow Americans: We will not rest either. We will not rest until this enemy has been defeated.  We must do the difficult work today, so that years from now people will look back and say that this generation rose to the moment, prevailed in a tough fight, and left behind a more hopeful region and a safer America.


- George W. Bush, State of the Union Speech, January 28, 2008


FORT MONROE, Va. — The Iraqi defense minister said Monday that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq’s borders from external threat until at least 2018.

Those comments from the minister, Abdul Qadir, were among the most specific public projections of a timeline for the American commitment in Iraq by officials in either Washington or Baghdad. And they suggested a longer commitment than either government had previously indicated.

Pentagon officials expressed no surprise at Mr. Qadir’s projections, which were even less optimistic than those he made last year.

President Bush has never given a date for a military withdrawal from Iraq but has repeatedly said that American forces would stand down as Iraqi forces stand up. Given Mr. Qadir’s assessment of Iraq’s military capabilities on Monday, such a withdrawal appeared to be quite distant, and further away than any American officials have previously stated in public.

Mr. Qadir’s comments are likely to become a factor in political debate over the war. All of the Democratic presidential candidates have promised a swift American withdrawal, while the leading Republican candidates have generally supported President Bush’s plan. Now that rough dates have been attached to his formula, they will certainly come under scrutiny from both sides.

Senior Pentagon and military officials said Mr. Qadir had been consistent throughout his weeklong visit in pressing that timeline, and also in laying out requests for purchasing new weapons through Washington’s program of foreign military sales.

“According to our calculations and our timelines, we think that from the first quarter of 2009 until 2012 we will be able to take full control of the internal affairs of the country,” Mr. Qadir said in an interview on Monday, conducted in Arabic through an interpreter.

“In regard to the borders, regarding protection from any external threats, our calculation appears that we are not going to be able to answer to any external threats until 2018 to 2020,” he added.

He offered no specifics on a timeline for reducing the number of American troops in Iraq.

His statements were slightly less optimistic than what he told an independent United States commission examining the progress of Iraqi security forces last year, according to the September report of the commission, led by a former NATO commander, Gen. James L. Jones of the Marines, who is retired. Then Mr. Qadir said he expected that Iraq would be able to fully defend its borders by 2018.

Mr. Qadir was in the United States to discuss the two nations’ long-term military relationship, starting with how to build the new Iraqi armed forces from the ground up over the next decade and beyond, with American assistance.

The United States and Iraq announced in November that they would negotiate formal agreements on that relationship, including the legal status of American military forces remaining in Iraq and an array of measures for cooperation in the diplomatic and economic arenas.


- Minister Sees Need for U.S. Help in Iraq Until 2018 , By THOM SHANKER, New York Times, January 15, 2008


Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (AP) -- President Bush said Saturday it's "fine with me" if generals recommend no more troop-strength reductions in Iraq than those already planned to take the force posture down to about 130,000.


The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, told reporters after Bush spoke that the overall flow of weaponry from Iran into Iraq appears to be down, but attacks with "explosively formed penetrators" tied to Tehran are sharply up in recent days.

Camp Arifjan is the largest U.S. base in Kuwait, home to about 9,000 American troops. Bush met there with Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker to get a firsthand report on the war in Iraq. The two are scheduled to give Congress another update on Iraq in March and make a recommendation about troop levels that Bush said must be made "based upon success."

"My attitude is, if he didn't want to continue the drawdown, that's fine with me, in order to make sure we succeed, see," the president told reporters after the hourlong briefing. "I said to the general, 'If you want to slow her down, fine. It's up to you."'

After a similar report from Petraeus and Crocker in September, Bush announced he would withdraw some troops from Iraq by July -- essentially the 30,000 sent as part of a buildup ordered a year ago -- but still keep the U.S. level there at about 130,000.

"The only thing I can tell you we're on track for is, we're doing what we said was going to happen," the president said.

The war remains deeply unpopular to the U.S. public and to Democratic leaders in Congress, who have been unable to force Bush's hand on deeper, faster troop withdrawals.

U.S. commanders credit a Sunni backlash against al Qaeda in Iraq with helping reduce violence over the past six months.

So far, nine of 18 Iraqi provinces have reverted from U.S. military to Iraqi security control, although the transition has gone more slowly than the Bush administration once hoped.

But Bush said the addition of troops to Iraq over the past year has produced results, saying it has helped turn the country into a place where "hope is returning." He cited citizen cooperation against extremists, grass-roots political changes and lower violence levels.

He also defended the performance of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other leaders.

"I'm not making excuses for a government, but to go from a tyranny to a democracy overnight is virtually impossible. And so when you say, am I pleased with the progress -- what they have gone through and where they are today I think is good progress," Bush said. "Have they done enough? No."

In language that seemed to presage maintaining U.S. troop levels, Bush said: "We cannot take the achievements of 2007 for granted. We must do all we can to ensure that 2008 brings even greater progress for Iraq's young democracy."

Also while on the sprawling base, Bush gave brief thank-you remarks to cheering troops. "It's hard work that you're doing. But it's necessary work," the president told them. "There is no doubt in my mind that we will succeed."


- Bush: Maintaining troop levels 'fine with me', CNN, January 12, 2008


Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

WARSAW, Poland, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Poland plans to withdraw its 900 troops from Iraq by the end of October 2008.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski Friday approved his government's plan to withdraw the troops, a promise made by new Prime Minster Donald Tusk in his inaugural speech last month, the Russian Information Agency Novosti reported Saturday.

Kaczynski, a strong supporter of the United States, had resisted withdrawing troops from Iraq and until the last election had the support of a Polish government led by his twin brother, ex-premier Jarolslaw Kaczynski.

Poland has had troops in Iraq since the beginning of the war in 2003. In all, 25 Polish soldiers have been killed in Iraq, RIA Novosti reported.

- Poland to pull troops from Iraq, UPI, December 22, 2007


© 2007 United Press International.

In a year marked by progress in Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday acknowledged two bits of unfinished business in his first 12 months on the job: He has yet to close the Guantanamo Bay prison or find Osama bin Laden.

Gates held out hope that if security gains hold, U.S. troop levels in Iraq can drop through next year. But with a nod to the increased attacks in parts of Afghanistan, he did not rule out a small uptick in U.S. troops there.

While Gates would not put a specific number on Iraq troop levels, he agreed a consistent reduction over the next 12 months would leave 10 brigades there — or roughly 100,000 troops — soon after American voters go to the polls for the 2008 presidential elections.

"My hope has been that the circumstances on the ground will continue to improve in a way that would — when General (David) Petraeus and the chiefs and Central Command do their analysis in March — allow a continuation of the drawdowns at roughly the same pace as the first half of the year," he said.


A former CIA director, Gates took over the Pentagon last December after the embattled Donald Rumsfeld stepped down. Since then he has seen both victories and defeats.

Overall, however, Iraq dominated his year — with four trips to the warfront, an overhaul of his commanders, a shift in strategy and a battery of hearings and reviews.

"It was a year that began with a surge of troops in Iraq and has ended with a sharp decline in violence," Gates said. "The war is far from over. And we must protect and build on the gains earned with the blood of our military, our allies and our Iraqi partners."

Gates was cautiously optimistic about further troop reductions. But he said he regretted putting a specific number on that projection in September, when he expressed the hope that forces could drop to 100,000, by the end of 2008 if conditions in Iraq improved.

"We obviously want to sustain the gains that we have already made," he said, adding that the capacity of Iraqi forces to bear more of the security burden and the ability of the Iraqi government to run the country are key to how quickly U.S. forces can leave.

There are 158,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Plans call for reducing the 20 combat brigades to 15 by next summer. Five more could come out in the second half of the year, he said, if security gains continue.

One combat brigade that left Iraq this month became the first to not be replaced.

Asked about the possibility of political reforms in Iraq, Gates said the country's leaders "are committed to getting it done. We'll see if they get it done."


- Gates offers hope of Iraq withdrawals, By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer, December 21,


Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq will need foreign troops to help defend it for another 10 years, but will not accept U.S. bases indefinitely, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

"Of course we need international support. We have security problems. For 10 years our army will not be able to defend Iraq," Dabbagh told the state-run al-Iraqiya television in an interview broadcast late on Sunday.

"I do not think that there is a threat of an invasion of Iraq, or getting involved in a war. (But) to protect Iraqi sovereignty there must be an army to defend Iraq for the next 10 years," he said.

"But on the other hand, does Iraq accept the permanent existence of U.S. bases, for instance? Absolutely no. There is no Iraqi who would accept the existence of a foreign army in this country," he said. "America is America and Iraq is Iraq."

The United States now has about 155,000 troops in Iraq, formally operating under a U.N. Security Council mandate enacted after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Iraq has asked the Security Council to extend the mandate for what it says will be a final year to the end of 2008, and conditions for U.S. troops to stay on beyond that date are to be negotiated in the next few months.

Violence has subsided after the United States dispatched 30,000 additional troops to Iraq this year, and Washington now says it will bring about 20,000 home by mid-2008. Troop levels for the second half of the year are to be decided in March.


- Iraq sees need for foreign troops for 10 years, by Peter Graff; Editing by Janet Lawrence, December 17, 2007


© Reuters 2007

(CNN) -- British troops Sunday handed over responsibility for security in the southern Iraqi province of Basra, a major milestone in the scaling-back of the foreign military presence nearly five years after the U.S.-led invasion.

"As you step up, we step back," the British commander, Maj. Gen. Graham Binns, told Iraqi troops and political officials, at a transfer ceremony broadcast live on Iraqi state television.

The changing of the guard came on the same day that Iraq resumed train service from Basra to Baghdad after a four-year hiatus.

The handover of Basra became official with the signing of a "memorandum of understanding" by Iraqi and British officials.

Britain has been in command of the south since the Iraq War began, with its troops based in Basra. It has been working to withdraw its troops from the region, which has always been more stable than Baghdad and other outlying regions.

Roughly 5,000 British troops are there now. Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government has announced plans to cut forces to about 4,500 by the end of December.

National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said the transfer means that Basra police will be the first called to respond to any security incident, and will be backed up by the Iraqi Army as needed.

British troops could be called in to help, but it would be coordinated through the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad, he said.

"Our help will continue to be one of assistance, not interference, to support not to direct, to listen not to ignore, to understand not to fear," Binns said.

Improved security allowed Basra to begin its long-stalled train service to the capital, said Gate'e al-Mayahi, chief of Baghdad's central railway station.

The train route runs between the towns of Latifiya, Mahmoudiya and Yusufiya, Iraq's "triangle of death." The trains stopped running four years ago because of insurgent attacks.

Railroad officials, spectators and journalists gathered at the Allawi station Sunday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Traditional music filled the air as people waved the V-for-victory sign. Several men boarded the train about 9 a.m. as Iraqi police looked on.

The train stops at stations in Hilla, Diwaniya, Samawa and Nasiriya. Al-Mayahi said plans are under way to resume train service to the northern city of Mosul once the tracks are fixed.

"This is proof that the security situation has improved," he said.

The British military, which is now emphasizing the training of local troops and police, plans to reduce its troop deployment to 2,500 by spring.

"There are now 30,000 Iraqi police and armed forces in the region," the Defense Ministry said in a statement on its Web site last week.

Brown, during a visit to Iraq last week, recommended that Basra province, not just the city of Basra, be returned to Iraqi security control during December.

Maj. Gen. Binns said last summer he did not expect they would be ready for a handover by the end of 2007.

"There has been an extraordinary and dramatic reduction in the level of violence in last few months, and the people who can take credit for this are the Iraqi security forces," Binns said.

Al-Rubaie said "huge progress" has been made in "cleaning a lot of bad elements in the police," but it remains a "huge challenge" and "one of the main tasks."

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and British Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Prentice also attended the Basra ceremony, which was held at the British headquarters at the airport outside of Basra.


- British troops return Basra to Iraqis,  Jomana Karadsheh, December 16, 2007


© 2007 Cable News Network.

CANBERRA (Reuters) - About 550 Australian combat troops in Iraq should be withdrawn by about the middle of next year, Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd said on Friday, setting a broad timetable for the soldiers to return home.

Australia has about 1,500 troops in and around Iraq, but Rudd won power at the Australia's national election on November 24 with a promise to bring frontline forces home.

"The combat force in Iraq we would have home by around the middle of next year," Rudd told Australian radio.

Rudd promised a gradual withdrawal of the troops, but had been coy about setting a timetable for their return to Australia. The troops are based mainly in Iraq's more peaceful south, where they help maintain security and train Iraqi forces.

Australia, a close ally of the United States, was one of the first countries to commit troops to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and Australia's former conservative government had been a strong supporter of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

U.S. President George W. Bush phoned Rudd last weekend to congratulate him on his election victory, but Rudd refused to comment on the detail or say whether they talked about Iraq.

Rudd will officially take office in Australia when he is sworn in on Monday. He said his government would start discussions with the United States on the withdrawal soon after.

"We'll have a meeting with the United States ambassador before too long to set up the appropriate processes for discussing that through," he said.

Rudd had also said Australian forces might continue to train Iraqi forces, but in a third country and not in Iraq.

- "Australia wants Iraq troops home by mid 2008," Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Jeremy Laurence, November 29, 2007

© Reuters2007 All rights reserved


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The first big test of security gains linked to the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq is at hand.

The military has started to reverse the 30,000-strong troop increase and commanders are hoping the drop in insurgent and sectarian violence in recent months - achieved at the cost of hundreds of lives - won't prove fleeting.

The current total of 20 combat brigades is shrinking to 19 as the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, operating in volatile Diyala province, leaves. The U.S. command in Baghdad announced on Saturday that the brigade had begun heading home to Fort Hood, Texas, and that its battle space will be taken by another brigade already operating in Iraq.

Between January and July - on a schedule not yet made public - the force is to shrink further to 15 brigades. The total number of U.S. troops will likely go from 167,000 now to 140,000-145,000 by July, six months before President Bush leaves office and a new commander in chief enters the White House.


- US Military Reversing Iraq Troop Surge, By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer, November 12, 2007


Many of you will deploy to Iraq. You will help carry out a new strategy that, over the past few months, has taken the initiative from the enemy and driven them from key strongholds. Today I want to share with you, and the American people, some of the progress we are making in Iraq -- what we can expect in the months ahead. The fight for Iraq is critical to the security of the American people -- and with the skill and valor of the soldiers standing before me, standing beside me and standing behind me; it is a fight that we will win.


Today we face an enemy that is willing to kill the innocent to achieve their political objectives; an enemy that showed us the horrors they intend for us on September the 11th, 2001, when the terrorists murdered nearly 3,000 innocent souls on our own country. You know, it's a day I'll never forget, and it's a day our country should never forget.

Some lessons that we must understand: First, conditions overseas matters to the security of the United States. When people live in hopeless societies, it's the only way that these evil perpetrators of violence can recruit. What matters overseas matters to the homeland. One of the lessons of September the 11th is we can't hope for the best. We must stay on the offense. We must keep the pressure on the enemy. We must use all power of the United States to protect the American people from further home -- further harm, and that's what we're doing here today.

And as we keep pressure on the enemy, we must always remember that the ultimate path to peace will come from the spread of freedom and liberty; that freedom is the great alternative to the ideology of the murderers and the radicals; that -- but working help -- to work to help others become free, and our noble military is laying -- laying the foundation for peace for generations to come.

And it is Iraq that is the central front in this struggle. In that country a democratic ally is fighting for its survival. Our enemies have sought to build safe havens there from which to plot further attacks against our people. And those who will be parading in front of us soon will be called upon to stop them. By taking the fight to the enemy in Iraq, we will defeat the terrorists there so we do not have to face them in the United States.

America's new strategy to win that fight, including a surging U.N. forces -- U.S. forces has been fully operational for four months. I want to assure the loved ones here of something, and I want to assure those who wear the uniform of something: I will make decisions about our troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan based upon the considered judgment of those who wear the uniform, not based upon the Gallup Poll or political party considerations.

So I accepted the recommendations of General David Petraeus, and I want to report to you on some of the results. Our new strategy emphasized securing the Iraqi population as the foundation for all other progress in that country.

Here's what I can report. First the challenges: Parts of Iraq continue to be violent and difficult. The terrorists are still capable of murdering the innocent -- that will get on our TV screens. The enemy remains determined, but what they have learned about the United States of America is we are more determined. We're more determined to protect ourselves and to help people realize the blessings of freedom. With our help the Iraqi people are going on the offense against the enemy. They're confronting the terrorists, and they're taking their country back.

As part of our strategy, we sent forces into neighborhoods where Iraqis lived to rat out the extremists, to gain the confidence of the people. Together with Iraqi forces we have captured or killed an average of more than 1,500 enemy fighters per month since January of this year.

Since the surge of operations began in June, the number of IED attacks per week has declined by half. U.S. military deaths have fallen to their lowest level in 19 months. Iraqi forces have now assumed responsibility for security in eight of Iraq's 18 provinces. Across this country brave Iraqis are increasingly taking more responsibility for their own security and safety.

We're seeing some of the most dramatic changes in Anbar province. One year ago, many of the experts said Anbar had been lost to the enemy. As a matter of fact, at that time al Qaeda staged a parade in the city streets to flaunt its power and its control. Last week there was another parade in Anbar. This time it was a parade of Iraqi citizens and Iraqi forces who had reclaimed their homes and driven the terrorists out of their cities. And these changes were made possible by the bravery and determination of our Iraqi partners, and the incredible bravery of the men and women of the United States military.

Our enemies see the changes underway, and they increasingly fear they're on the wrong side of events. Osama bin Laden -- who has to hide in caves because the United States is on his tail -- understands, has said publicly that al Qaeda's recent setbacks are mistakes -- the result of mistakes that al Qaeda has made. In other words, he recognizes the inevitable -- that the United States of America and those who long for peace in Iraq, the Iraqi citizens, will not tolerate thugs and killers in their midst.

The Iraqis are becoming more capable, and our military commander tells me that these gains are making possible what I call "return on success." That means we're slowly bringing some of our troops home -- and now we're doing it from a position of strength.

Our new strategy recognizes that once Iraqis feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods they can begin to create jobs and opportunities. And that is starting to happen. There's some challenges: corruption remains a problem; unemployment remains high; and the improvements we are seeing in the Iraqi economy are not uniform across the country. But overall the Iraqi economy is growing at a strong rate.

We're seeing improvements in important economic indicators. Inflation has been cut in half. Electricity production in September reached its highest levels since the war began -- and higher than it was under Saddam Hussein.

Behind these numbers are stories of real people -- some of whom our troops may meet, in some real cities where you may patrol. In Baqubah, the historic market has been reopened in a city that had been in a virtual lockdown a few months ago. In Fallujah, workers have turned an artillery factory into a civilian machine shop employing 600 people. In the Baghdad neighborhood of Ameriya -- an al Qaeda stronghold until a few months ago -- locals have returned and are reopening their shops.

Here's what this progress means to one shopkeeper in the former al Qaeda stronghold of Arab Jabour. He's a local butcher. He says that as recently as June, he was selling only one or two sheep per week. Now, the terrorists cleaned out and residents returning home, he's selling one or two sheep per day. Slowly but surely, the people of Iraq are reclaiming a normal society. You see, when Iraqis don't have to fear the terrorists, they have a chance to build better lives for themselves. You must understand an Iraqi mom wants her child to grow up in peace just like an American mom does.

Our new strategy is based on the idea that improvements in security will help the Iraqis achieve national reconciliation. There's some challenges: reconciliation at the national level hasn't been what we hoped it'd been by now. While the central government has passed a budget, and has reached out to its neighbors, and begun to share oil revenues with the provinces, the Iraqi parliament still lags in passing key legislation. Political factions still are failing to make necessary compromises. And that's disappointing -- and I, of course, made my disappointments clear to Iraqi leadership.

At the same time, reconciliation is taking place at the local level. Many Iraqis are seeing growing cooperation between Shia and Sunnis -- these folks are tired of al Qaeda and they're tired of Iranian-backed extremists, they're weary of fighting, and they are determined to give their families a better life.

In Baghdad, Sunni and Shia leaders in one of the city's most divided neighborhoods recently signed an agreement to halt sectarian violence and end attack on coalition forces.

In Anbar, Sunni sheikhs hosted Shia sheikhs from Karbala province to discuss security and express their unity. And I can assure you -- as can the soldiers who have been in Iraq -- that one year ago such an event was unthinkable.

In Diyala province, tribal groups come together for the first time to foster reconciliation. I'm going to tell you a story of interest to me: Extremists had kidnapped a group of Sunni and Shia leaders from Diyala -- one of them was shot dead. According to a tribal spokesman, the extremists offered to release the Shia sheikhs, but not the Sunnis. And the Shias refused -- unless their Sunni brothers were released as well. The next day, most of the hostages were rescued, and their captors are now in custody. And the point I make is that given time and space, the normal Iraqi will take the necessary steps to put -- fight for a free society. After all, 12 million people voted for freedom -- 12 million people endorsed a democratic constitution. And it's in our interest we help them succeed. It's in our interest we help freedom prevail. It's in our interest we deny safe haven to killers who at one time killed us in America. It's in our interest to show the world that we've got the courage and the determination necessary to spread the foundation for peace, and that is what we're here to honor today.

We're making progress, and many have contributed to the successes. And foremost among them are the men and women of the United States Army. Once again, American soldiers have shown the world why our military is the finest fighting force on earth. And now that legacy falls to the proud graduates today. Earlier generations of soldiers from Fort Jackson made their way to Europe and liberated a continent from tyranny. Today a new generation is following in their noble tradition. And one day people will speak of your achievements in Baqubah and Baghdad the way we now speak of Normandy and the Bulge.

This post was named for a great American President. He served his country in two major conflicts, including the American Revolution at the age of 13. Andrew Jackson was renowned for his courage -- and that courage lives on at the base that bears his name. Troops from Fort Jackson have served with honor and distinction in today's war on terror -- and some have not lived to make the journey home. And today we honor their sacrifices. We pray for their families. We remember what they fought for -- and we pledge to finish the job.


- George W. Bush, President Bush Speaks at Basic Combat Training Graduation Ceremony, November 2, 2007


LONDON -- Britain will cut its force in Iraq by half in the spring, shrinking the commitment of America's leading coalition partner to 2,500 troops engaged mainly in "training and mentoring" of Iraqi forces, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said today.

The announcement goes much further than the 1,000-troop reduction the prime minister announced in Baghdad last week, and sets the stage for Britain's exit as an active combat participant in the still-troubled region of southern Iraq.

"We will continue to be actively engaged in Iraq's political and economic development. We will continue to assist the Iraqi government and its security forces to help build their capabilities -- military, civilian and economic -- so that they can take full responsibility for the security of their own country," Brown told the House of Commons.

But the strategy he laid out -- signaling a departure from predecessor Tony Blair -- calls for Britain to move out of active combat into a staged "overwatch" role in Iraq, with only "limited" capability for "reintervention" by spring.

- Britain to cut its force in Iraq by half, By Kim Murphy, October 8, 2007


Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

Good morning. This week, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified before Congress on the progress of America's strategy in Iraq, including the surge in forces. They agreed that our Coalition faces formidable challenges. Yet they also said that security conditions are improving, that our forces are seizing the initiative from the enemy, and that the troop surge is working.

Because of this progress, General Petraeus now believes we can maintain our security gains with fewer U.S. troops. He's recommended a force reduction of 5,700 troops in Iraq by Christmas, and he expects that by July we will be able to reduce our troop levels in Iraq further, from 20 combat brigades to 15. He's also recommended that in December we begin a transition to the next phase of our strategy in Iraq, in which our troops will shift over time from leading operations to partnering with Iraqi forces, and eventually to overwatching those forces.

I have accepted General Petraeus's recommendations. And I have directed that he and Ambassador Crocker deliver another report to Congress in March. At that time, they will provide a fresh assessment of the situation in Iraq and of the troop levels we need to meet our national security objectives. The principle that guides my decisions on troop levels is "return on success." The more successful we are, the more troops can return home. And in all we do, I will ensure that our commanders on the ground have the troops and flexibility they need to defeat the enemy.

Anbar Province is a good example of the progress we are seeing in Iraq. Last year, an intelligence report concluded that Anbar had been lost to al Qaeda. But local sheiks asked for our help to push back the terrorists -- and so we sent an additional 4,000 Marines to Anbar as part of the surge. Together, local sheiks, Iraqi forces, and Coalition troops drove the terrorists from the capital of Ramadi and other population centers. Today, citizens who once feared beheading for talking to our troops now come forward to tell us where the terrorists are hiding. And young Sunnis who once joined the insurgency are now joining the army and police.

The success in Anbar is beginning to be replicated in other parts of Iraq. In Diyala, a province that was once a sanctuary for extremists is now the site of a growing popular uprising against the extremists. In Baghdad, sectarian killings are down, and life is beginning to return to normal in many parts of the city. Groups of Shia extremists and Iranian-backed militants are being broken up, and many of their leaders are being captured or killed. These gains are a tribute to our military, to Iraqi forces, and to an Iraqi government that has decided to take on the extremists.

The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States. If we were to be driven out of Iraq, extremists of all strains would be emboldened. Al Qaeda could find new recruits and new sanctuaries. And a failed Iraq could increase the likelihood that our forces would someday have to return -- and confront extremists even more entrenched and even more deadly. By contrast, a free Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven. It will counter the destructive ambitions of Iran. And it will serve as a partner in the fight against terrorism.

In this struggle, we have brave allies who are making great sacrifices to defeat the terrorists. One of these Iraqis was a man named Sheikh Abdul Sattar. He was one of the tribal leaders I met on my recent visit to Iraq, who was helping us to drive al Qaeda out of Anbar Province. His father was killed by al Qaeda in 2004. And when we met Sheikh Sattar, he told me, quote: "We have suffered a great deal from terrorism. We strongly support the democracy you have called for." Earlier this week, this brave tribal sheikh was murdered. A fellow Sunni leader declared: "We are determined to strike back and continue our work." We mourn the loss of brave Iraqis like Sheikh Sattar, and we stand with those who are continuing the fight.

If Iraq's young democracy can turn back its enemies, it will mean a more hopeful Middle East -- and a more secure America. So we will help the Iraqi people defeat those who threaten their future -- and also threaten ours.


- George W. Bush, Radio Address, September 15, 2007


Good evening. In the life of all free nations, there come moments that decide the direction of a country and reveal the character of its people. We are now at such a moment.

In Iraq, an ally of the United States is fighting for its survival. Terrorists and extremists who are at war with us around the world are seeking to topple Iraq's government, dominate the region, and attack us here at home. If Iraq's young democracy can turn back these enemies, it will mean a more hopeful Middle East and a more secure America. This ally has placed its trust in the United States. And tonight, our moral and strategic imperatives are one: We must help Iraq defeat those who threaten its future and also threaten ours.

Eight months ago, we adopted a new strategy to meet that objective, including a surge in U.S. forces that reached full strength in June. This week, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified before Congress about how that strategy is progressing. In their testimony, these men made clear that our challenge in Iraq is formidable. Yet they concluded that conditions in Iraq are improving, that we are seizing the initiative from the enemy, and that the troop surge is working.

The premise of our strategy is that securing the Iraqi population is the foundation for all other progress. For Iraqis to bridge sectarian divides, they need to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. For lasting reconciliation to take root, Iraqis must feel confident that they do not need sectarian gangs for security. The goal of the surge is to provide that security and to help prepare Iraqi forces to maintain it. As I will explain tonight, our success in meeting these objectives now allows us to begin bringing some of our troops home.

Since the surge was announced in January, it has moved through several phases. First was the flow of additional troops into Iraq, especially Baghdad and Anbar province. Once these forces were in place, our commanders launched a series of offensive operations to drive terrorists and militias out of their strongholds. And finally, in areas that have been cleared, we are surging diplomatic and civilian resources to ensure that military progress is quickly followed up with real improvements in daily life.

Anbar province is a good example of how our strategy is working. Last year, an intelligence report concluded that Anbar had been lost to al Qaeda. Some cited this report as evidence that we had failed in Iraq and should cut our losses and pull out. Instead, we kept the pressure on the terrorists. The local people were suffering under the Taliban-like rule of al Qaeda, and they were sick of it. So they asked us for help.

To take advantage of this opportunity, I sent an additional 4,000 Marines to Anbar as part of the surge. Together, local sheiks, Iraqi forces, and coalition troops drove the terrorists from the capital of Ramadi and other population centers. Today, a city where al Qaeda once planted its flag is beginning to return to normal. Anbar citizens who once feared beheading for talking to an American or Iraqi soldier now come forward to tell us where the terrorists are hiding. Young Sunnis who once joined the insurgency are now joining the army and police. And with the help of our provincial reconstruction teams, new jobs are being created and local governments are meeting again.

These developments do not often make the headlines, but they do make a difference. During my visit to Anbar on Labor Day, local Sunni leaders thanked me for America's support. They pledged they would never allow al Qaeda to return. And they told me they now see a place for their people in a democratic Iraq. The Sunni governor of Anbar province put it this way: "Our tomorrow starts today."

The changes in Anbar show all Iraqis what becomes possible when extremists are driven out. They show al Qaeda that it cannot count on popular support, even in a province its leaders once declared their home base. And they show the world that ordinary people in the Middle East want the same things for their children that we want for ours -- a decent life and a peaceful future.

In Anbar, the enemy remains active and deadly. Earlier today, one of the brave tribal sheikhs who helped lead the revolt against al Qaeda was murdered. In response, a fellow Sunni leader declared: "We are determined to strike back and continue our work." And as they do, they can count on the continued support of the United States.

Throughout Iraq, too many citizens are being killed by terrorists and death squads. And for most Iraqis, the quality of life is far from where it should be. Yet General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker report that the success in Anbar is beginning to be replicated in other parts of the country.

One year ago, much of Baghdad was under siege. Schools were closed, markets were shuttered, and sectarian violence was spiraling out of control. Today, most of Baghdad's neighborhoods are being patrolled by coalition and Iraqi forces who live among the people they protect. Many schools and markets are reopening. Citizens are coming forward with vital intelligence. Sectarian killings are down. And ordinary life is beginning to return.

One year ago, much of Diyala province was a sanctuary for al Qaeda and other extremist groups, and its capital of Baqubah was emerging as an al Qaeda stronghold. Today, Baqubah is cleared. Diyala province is the site of a growing popular uprising against the extremists. And some local tribes are working alongside coalition and Iraqi forces to clear out the enemy and reclaim their communities.

One year ago, Shia extremists and Iranian-backed militants were gaining strength and targeting Sunnis for assassination. Today, these groups are being broken up, and many of their leaders are being captured or killed.

These gains are a tribute to our military, they are a tribute to the courage of the Iraqi security forces, and they are the tribute to an Iraqi government that has decided to take on the extremists.

Now the Iraqi government must bring the same determination to achieving reconciliation. This is an enormous undertaking after more than three decades of tyranny and division. The government has not met its own legislative benchmarks -- and in my meetings with Iraqi leaders, I have made it clear that they must.

Yet Iraq's national leaders are getting some things done. For example, they have passed a budget. They're sharing oil revenues with the provinces. They're allowing former Baathists to rejoin Iraq's military or receive government pensions. Local reconciliation is taking place. The key now is to link this progress in the provinces to progress in Baghdad. As local politics change, so will national politics.

Our troops in Iraq are performing brilliantly. Along with Iraqi forces, they have captured or killed an average of more than 1,500 enemy fighters per month since January. Yet ultimately, the way forward depends on the ability of Iraqis to maintain security gains. According to General Petraeus and a panel chaired by retired General Jim Jones, the Iraqi army is becoming more capable -- although there is still a great deal of work to be done to improve the national police. Iraqi forces are receiving increased cooperation from local populations. And this is improving their ability to hold areas that have been cleared.

Because of this success, General Petraeus believes we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces. He has recommended that we not replace about 2,200 Marines scheduled to leave Anbar province later this month. In addition, he says it will soon be possible to bring home an Army combat brigade, for a total force reduction of 5,700 troops by Christmas. And he expects that by July, we will be able to reduce our troop levels in Iraq from 20 combat brigades to 15.

General Petraeus also recommends that in December we begin transitioning to the next phase of our strategy in Iraq. As terrorists are defeated, civil society takes root, and the Iraqis assume more control over their own security, our mission in Iraq will evolve. Over time, our troops will shift from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and eventually to overwatching those forces. As this transition in our mission takes place, our troops will focus on a more limited set of tasks, including counterterrorism operations and training, equipping, and supporting Iraqi forces.

I have consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other members of my national security team, Iraqi officials, and leaders of both parties in Congress. I have benefited from their advice, and I have accepted General Petraeus's recommendations. I have directed General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to update their joint campaign plan for Iraq, so we can adjust our military and civilian resources accordingly. I have also directed them to deliver another report to Congress in March. At that time, they will provide a fresh assessment of the situation in Iraq and of the troop levels and resources we need to meet our national security objectives.

The principle guiding my decisions on troop levels in Iraq is "return on success." The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home. And in all we do, I will ensure that our commanders on the ground have the troops and flexibility they need to defeat the enemy.

Americans want our country to be safe and our troops to begin coming home from Iraq. Yet those of us who believe success in Iraq is essential to our security, and those who believe we should begin bringing our troops home, have been at odds. Now, because of the measure of success we are seeing in Iraq, we can begin seeing troops come home. The way forward I have described tonight makes it possible, for the first time in years, for people who have been on opposite sides of this difficult debate to come together.

This vision for a reduced American presence also has the support of Iraqi leaders from all communities. At the same time, they understand that their success will require U.S. political, economic, and security engagement that extends beyond my presidency. These Iraqi leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America. And we are ready to begin building that relationship -- in a way that protects our interests in the region and requires many fewer American troops.

The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States. A free Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven. A free Iraq will counter the destructive ambitions of Iran. A free Iraq will marginalize extremists, unleash the talent of its people, and be an anchor of stability in the region. A free Iraq will set an example for people across the Middle East. A free Iraq will be our partner in the fight against terror -- and that will make us safer here at home.

Realizing this vision will be difficult, but it is achievable. Our military commanders believe we can succeed. Our diplomats believe we can succeed. And for the safety of future generations of Americans, we must succeed.

If we were to be driven out of Iraq, extremists of all strains would be emboldened. Al Qaeda could gain new recruits and new sanctuaries. Iran would benefit from the chaos and would be encouraged in its efforts to gain nuclear weapons and dominate the region. Extremists could control a key part of the global energy supply. Iraq could face a humanitarian nightmare. Democracy movements would be violently reversed. We would leave our children to face a far more dangerous world. And as we saw on September the 11th, 2001, those dangers can reach our cities and kill our people.

Whatever political party you belong to, whatever your position on Iraq, we should be able to agree that America has a vital interest in preventing chaos and providing hope in the Middle East. We should be able to agree that we must defeat al Qaeda, counter Iran, help the Afghan government, work for peace in the Holy Land, and strengthen our military so we can prevail in the struggle against terrorists and extremists.

So tonight I want to speak to members of the United States Congress: Let us come together on a policy of strength in the Middle East. I thank you for providing crucial funds and resources for our military. And I ask you to join me in supporting the recommendations General Petraeus has made and the troop levels he has asked for.

To the Iraqi people: You have voted for freedom, and now you are liberating your country from terrorists and death squads. You must demand that your leaders make the tough choices needed to achieve reconciliation. As you do, have confidence that America does not abandon our friends, and we will not abandon you.

To Iraq's neighbors who seek peace: The violent extremists who target Iraq are also targeting you. The best way to secure your interests and protect your own people is to stand with the people of Iraq. That means using your economic and diplomatic leverage to strengthen the government in Baghdad. And it means the efforts by Iran and Syria to undermine that government must end.

To the international community: The success of a free Iraq matters to every civilized nation. We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy. We encourage all nations to help, by implementing the International Compact to revitalize Iraq's economy, by participating in the Neighbors Conferences to boost cooperation and overcome differences in the region, and by supporting the new and expanded mission of the United Nations in Iraq.

To our military personnel, intelligence officers, diplomats, and civilians on the front lines in Iraq: You have done everything America has asked of you. And the progress I have reported tonight is in large part because of your courage and hard effort. You are serving far from home. Our nation is grateful for your sacrifices, and the sacrifices of your families.

Earlier this year, I received an email from the family of Army Specialist Brandon Stout of Michigan. Brandon volunteered for the National Guard and was killed while serving in Baghdad. His family has suffered greatly. Yet in their sorrow, they see larger purpose. His wife, Audrey, says that Brandon felt called to serve and knew what he was fighting for. And his parents, Tracy and Jeff, wrote me this: "We believe this is a war of good and evil and we must win even if it cost the life of our own son. Freedom is not free."

This country is blessed to have Americans like Brandon Stout, who make extraordinary sacrifices to keep us safe from harm. They are doing so in a fight that is just, and right, and necessary. And now it falls to us to finish the work they have begun.

Some say the gains we are making in Iraq come too late. They are mistaken. It is never too late to deal a blow to al Qaeda. It is never too late to advance freedom. And it is never too late to support our troops in a fight they can win.


- George W. Bush, Address by the President to the Nation on the Way Forward in Iraq, September 13, 2007


Good morning. Earlier this week, I traveled to Iraq's Anbar Province to visit our troops and see with my own eyes the remarkable changes they are making possible. If you want to see some photos from this trip, go to where you can view a slideshow of my visit.

Success in Anbar is critical to the democratic future of Iraq and to the war on terror. This largely Sunni province covers nearly a third of Iraq. It stretches from the outskirts of Baghdad to Iraq's borders with Jordan, and Syria, and Saudi Arabia. And until recently, Anbar was al Qaeda's chief base of operations in Iraq.

Last year at this time, Anbar was all over the news. Newspapers at the time cited a leaked intelligence report that was pessimistic about our prospects there. One columnist summed it up this way: "The war is over in Anbar province, and the United States lost." But local citizens soon saw what life under al Qaeda meant for them. The terrorists brutalized the people of Anbar and killed those who opposed their dark ideology. So the tribal sheiks of Anbar came together to fight al Qaeda. They asked for support from the Coalition and the Iraqi government, and we responded.

Together we have driven al Qaeda out of strongholds in Anbar. The level of violence is down. Local governments are meeting again. Young Sunnis are joining the police and army. And normal life is returning. The people of Anbar have seen that standing up to the terrorists and extremists leads to a better life. And Anbar has shown that improving security is the first step toward achieving economic progress and political reconciliation.

On my visit, I met with tribal sheiks who have fought with us against al Qaeda -- and who are now building a better future for their people and for all Iraqis. One Sunni sheik told me: "We have suffered a great deal from terrorism. We strongly support the democracy you have called for. The previous regime [of Saddam Hussein] should not be characterized as a Sunni regime -- it was a regime against the Sunnis, Shia, and the Kurds."

I also met with national leaders from Iraq's government: President Talabani and Prime Minister Maliki, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, Vice President Abd al-Mahdi, Vice President Hashimi, and President Barzani of the Kurdish region. These men come from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. But they all understand the importance of succeeding in Anbar. And so they're reaching out to help, with positive steps such as sharing oil revenues with provincial leaders. I thanked the representatives of Iraq's government for their efforts to support the bottom-up progress in Anbar. And I told them that the American people expect them to meet their commitments and pass the legislation they've agreed on.

While in Iraq, I also received a good briefing from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. They gave me an update on our military, and political, and economic efforts to support our Iraqi partners. They told me about the progress they're seeing across Iraq and their ideas for the way forward. In the next few days, they will come to Washington to give Congress their assessment of conditions on the ground. I urge the Members of Congress to listen to these two well-respected professionals -- before jumping to any conclusions.

Most importantly, during my visit, I met with our troops serving in Anbar. Every day, these fine men and women show courage under incredibly difficult circumstances. The work they're doing on the sands of Anbar is making us safer in the streets of America. Because of their bravery and sacrifice, our troops in Iraq are denying al Qaeda safe havens from which to plot and plan and carry out attacks against Americans both here and abroad. I know how hard it is for our men and women in uniform to be away from their families. I told them our Nation appreciates their willingness to serve and that the American people stand with them.

Next week, after consulting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my national security team, Members of Congress from both parties, and Iraqi leaders, I will speak directly to the Nation about the recommendations General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have presented to me. I will discuss the changes our strategy has brought to Iraq. I will lay out a vision for future involvement in Iraq -- one that I believe the American people and their elected leaders of both parties can support. By coming together on the way forward, we will strengthen Iraq's democracy, deal a blow to our enemies, secure interests in the Middle East, and make our Nation safer.


- George W. Bush, Radio Address, September 8, 2007


I'm keeping pretty good company, as you can see. I brought out the A Team so they could be with the folks who are making a significant difference in this war against these radicals and extremists. In Anbar you're seeing firsthand the dramatic differences that can come when the Iraqis are more secure. In other words, you're seeing success.

You see Sunnis who once fought side by side with al Qaeda against coalition troops now fighting side by side with coalition troops against al Qaeda. Anbar is a huge province. It was once written off as lost. It is now one of the safest places in Iraq. Because of your hard work, because of your bravery and sacrifice, you are denying al Qaeda a safe haven from which to plot and plan and carry out attacks against the United States of America. What you're doing here is making this country safer, and I thank you for your hard work.

The surge of operations that began in June is improving security throughout Iraq. The military successes are paving the way for the political reconciliation and economic progress the Iraqis need to transform their country. When Iraqis feel safe in their own homes and neighborhoods, they can focus their efforts on building a stable, civil society with functioning government structures at the local and provincial and national levels. And that's important, because a free Iraq, an Iraq that's an ally against these extremists and murderers will be a major defeat for the terrorists.

Earlier today I met with some of the tribal sheiks here in Anbar. It was a really interesting meeting. And at the table were the leaders of the central government, as well. They told me that the kind of bottom-up progress that your efforts are bringing to Anbar is vital to the success and stability of a free Iraq. See, Iraqis need this stability to build a more peaceful future. And America needs this stability to prevent the chaos that allows the terrorists to set up bases from which they can plot and plan attacks on our homeland.

The very people that you helped the Iraqis defeat in Anbar swore allegiance to the man that ordered the attack on the United States of America. What happens here in Anbar matters to the security of the United States.

And so I thank you for your sacrifice. I thank you for volunteering in the face of danger. I thank you for your courage and your bravery. Every day you are successful here in Iraq draws nearer to the day when America can begin calling you and your fellow servicemen and women home.

But I want to tell you this about the decision -- about my decision about troop levels. Those decisions will be based on a calm assessment by our military commanders on the conditions on the ground -- not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results in the media. In other words, when we begin to draw down troops from Iraq, it will be from a position of strength and success, not from a position of fear and failure. To do otherwise would embolden our enemies and make it more likely that they would attack us at home. If we let our enemies back us out of Iraq, we will more likely face them in America. If we don't want to hear their footsteps back home, we have to keep them on their heels over here. And that's exactly what you're doing, and America is safer for it.


- George W. Bush, President Bush Visits and Thanks Troops in Anbar Province, September 3, 2007


Today, Anbar is a really different place. The level of violence is down, local governments are meeting again, police are more in control of the city streets, and normal life is returning. The people of this province are seeing that standing up to the extremists is the path to a better life, that success is possible. And soon I'm going to meet with some of the leaders here in Anbar province who have made a decision to reject violence and murder in return for moderation and peace.

I'm looking forward to hearing from the tribal leaders who led the fight against the terrorists and are now leading the effort to rebuild their communities. I'm going to speak with members of Anbar's Provincial Council, which has reestablished itself and returned to the capital city of Ramadi. I'm 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.

Earlier, we just met with the leaders of Iraq's national government: President Talabani and Prime Minister Maliki, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, Vice President Abdul Mahdi, Vice President Hashimi and President Barzani of the Kurdish region. We had a good, frank discussion. We share a common goal: a free Iraq, that has a government that responds to the people. The government they represent, of course, is based in Baghdad -- but they're here in Anbar because they know the success of a free Iraq depends on the national government's support from the bottom up. They know what I know: that when you have bottom-up reconciliation like you're seeing here in Anbar, it'll begin to translate into central government action.

The national government is sharing oil revenues with this province, and that's a positive development. The challenges are great, and I understand the pace of progress is frustrating. It's frustrating for the American people; it's frustrating for the Iraqi people. These people are working under difficult circumstances, after having lived under the thumb of a brutal tyrant. Iraq's local and national leaders are working to ensure that the military success in places like Anbar is quickly backed up by real improvements in the lives of ordinary Iraqis. That's what we discussed today. Secretary Gates, Secretary Rice and I discussed with the Iraqi leaders that there has been some security success, and now it's important for government to follow up.

Our troops and diplomats and civilian experts will support the Iraqis in these efforts as they follow up. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker gave us an update on how things are looking. They gave us an update on the way forward and I was pleased with what I heard. The strategy we put into place earlier this year was designed to help the Iraqis improve their security so that political and economic progress could follow. And that is exactly the effect it is having in places like Anbar.

We can't take this progress for granted. Here in Anbar and across Iraq, al Qaeda and other enemies of freedom will continue to try to kill the innocent in order to impose their dark ideology. But General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces. These two fine Americans will report to Congress next week, and I urge members of both parties in Congress to listen to what they have to say. Congress shouldn't jump to conclusions until the General and the Ambassador report.

When you stand on the ground here in Anbar and hear from the people who live here, you can see what the future of Iraq can look like. That's why members of Congress from both parties who have visited Iraq have come back encouraged by what they have seen. For all the differences over the war, we can agree on what's working. And we can agree that continuing this progress is vital to making the strategic interests -- vital in meeting the strategic interests of our nation. It's vital to bring in -- it's vital that we work to bring America together behind a common vision for a more stable and more peaceful Middle East.


- George W. Bush, President Bush Meets with Prime Minister Maliki and Iraqi Leaders, September 3, 2007


There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today's struggle -- those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that "the American people had risen against their government's war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today."

His number two man, Zawahiri, has also invoked Vietnam. In a letter to al Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq, Zawahiri pointed to "the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents."

Zawahiri later returned to this theme, declaring that the Americans "know better than others that there is no hope in victory. The Vietnam specter is closing every outlet." Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility -- but the terrorists see it differently.

We must remember the words of the enemy. We must listen to what they say. Bin Laden has declared that "the war [in Iraq] is for you or us to win. If we win it, it means your disgrace and defeat forever." Iraq is one of several fronts in the war on terror -- but it's the central front -- it's the central front for the enemy that attacked us and wants to attack us again. And it's the central front for the United States and to withdraw without getting the job done would be devastating.

If we were to abandon the Iraqi people, the terrorists would be emboldened, and use their victory to gain new recruits. As we saw on September the 11th, a terrorist safe haven on the other side of the world can bring death and destruction to the streets of our own cities. Unlike in Vietnam, if we withdraw before the job is done, this enemy will follow us home. And that is why, for the security of the United States of America, we must defeat them overseas so we do not face them in the United States of America.

Recently, two men who were on the opposite sides of the debate over the Vietnam War came together to write an article. One was a member of President Nixon's foreign policy team, and the other was a fierce critic of the Nixon administration's policies. Together they wrote that the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq would be disastrous.

Here's what they said: "Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences." I believe these men are right.

In Iraq, our moral obligations and our strategic interests are one. So we pursue the extremists wherever we find them and we stand with the Iraqis at this difficult hour -- because the shadow of terror will never be lifted from our world and the American people will never be safe until the people of the Middle East know the freedom that our Creator meant for all.

I recognize that history cannot predict the future with absolute certainty. I understand that. But history does remind us that there are lessons applicable to our time. And we can learn something from history. In Asia, we saw freedom triumph over violent ideologies after the sacrifice of tens of thousands of American lives -- and that freedom has yielded peace for generations.

The American military graveyards across Europe attest to the terrible human cost in the fight against Nazism. They also attest to the triumph of a continent that today is whole, free, and at peace. The advance of freedom in these lands should give us confidence that the hard work we are doing in the Middle East can have the same results we've seen in Asia and elsewhere -- if we show the same perseverance and the same sense of purpose.

In a world where the terrorists are willing to act on their twisted beliefs with sickening acts of barbarism, we must put faith in the timeless truths about human nature that have made us free.

Across the Middle East, millions of ordinary citizens are tired of war, they're tired of dictatorship and corruption, they're tired of despair. They want societies where they're treated with dignity and respect, where their children have the hope for a better life. They want nations where their faiths are honored and they can worship in freedom.

And that is why millions of Iraqis and Afghans turned out to the polls -- millions turned out to the polls. And that's why their leaders have stepped forward at the risk of assassination. And that's why tens of thousands are joining the security forces of their nations. These men and women are taking great risks to build a free and peaceful Middle East -- and for the sake of our own security, we must not abandon them.

There is one group of people who understand the stakes, understand as well as any expert, anybody in America -- those are the men and women in uniform. Through nearly six years of war, they have performed magnificently.  Day after day, hour after hour, they keep the pressure on the enemy that would do our citizens harm. They've overthrown two of the most brutal tyrannies of the world, and liberated more than 50 million citizens.

In Iraq, our troops are taking the fight to the extremists and radicals and murderers all throughout the country. Our troops have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January of this year.  We're in the fight. Today our troops are carrying out a surge that is helping bring former Sunni insurgents into the fight against the extremists and radicals, into the fight against al Qaeda, into the fight against the enemy that would do us harm. They're clearing out the terrorists out of population centers, they're giving families in liberated Iraqi cities a look at a decent and hopeful life.

Our troops are seeing this progress that is being made on the ground. And as they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they're gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq? Here's my answer is clear: We'll support our troops, we'll support our commanders, and we will give them everything they need to succeed.

Despite the mistakes that have been made, despite the problems we have encountered, seeing the Iraqis through as they build their democracy is critical to keeping the American people safe from the terrorists who want to attack us. It is critical work to lay the foundation for peace that veterans have done before you all.

A free Iraq is not going to be perfect. A free Iraq will not make decisions as quickly as the country did under the dictatorship. Many are frustrated by the pace of progress in Baghdad, and I can understand this. As I noted yesterday, the Iraqi government is distributing oil revenues across its provinces despite not having an oil revenue law on its books, that the parliament has passed about 60 pieces of legislation.

Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man with a difficult job, and I support him. And it's not up to politicians in Washington, D.C. to say whether he will remain in his position -- that is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy, and not a dictatorship.  A free Iraq is not going to transform the Middle East overnight. But a free Iraq will be a massive defeat for al Qaeda, it will be an example that provides hope for millions throughout the Middle East, it will be a friend of the United States, and it's going to be an important ally in the ideological struggle of the 21st century.

Prevailing in this struggle is essential to our future as a nation. And the question now that comes before us is this: Will today's generation of Americans resist the allure of retreat, and will we do in the Middle East what the veterans in this room did in Asia?

The journey is not going to be easy, as the veterans fully understand. At the outset of the war in the Pacific, there were those who argued that freedom had seen its day and that the future belonged to the hard men in Tokyo. A year and a half before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan's Foreign Minister gave a hint of things to come during an interview with a New York newspaper. He said, "In the battle between democracy and totalitarianism the latter adversary will without question win and will control the world. The era of democracy is finished, the democratic system bankrupt."

In fact, the war machines of Imperial Japan would be brought down -- brought down by good folks who only months before had been students and farmers and bank clerks and factory hands. Some are in the room today. Others here have been inspired by their fathers and grandfathers and uncles and cousins.

That generation of Americans taught the tyrants a telling lesson: There is no power like the power of freedom and no soldier as strong as a soldier who fights for a free future for his children.  And when America's work on the battlefield was done, the victorious children of democracy would help our defeated enemies rebuild, and bring the taste of freedom to millions.

We can do the same for the Middle East. Today the violent Islamic extremists who fight us in Iraq are as certain of their cause as the Nazis, or the Imperial Japanese, or the Soviet communists were of theirs. They are destined for the same fate.

The greatest weapon in the arsenal of democracy is the desire for liberty written into the human heart by our Creator. So long as we remain true to our ideals, we will defeat the extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will help those countries' peoples stand up functioning democracies in the heart of the broader Middle East. And when that hard work is done and the critics of today recede from memory, the cause of freedom will be stronger, a vital region will be brighter, and the American people will be safer.


- George W. Bush, Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, August 22, 2007


BAGHDAD — The day-to-day commander of the U.S. military in Iraq said Tuesday that American forces would be needed in the country for a few more years in order to stave off chaos.

"We think that based on the campaign plan that we need forces here for a few more years," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told The Times during a tour of a U.S. Army base in Babil province south of the capital.

"We need to have forces here in a deliberate fashion in order to accomplish what our goals are, which are a stable Iraq able to operate in a regional construct that will not provide a safe haven for terror and we will move forward with a government that cares for the people of Iraq," he said.

Odierno's comments were the most blunt in a series of recent statements from U.S. Embassy and military officials that aim to persuade Congress to support a U.S. military presence in Iraq. He emphasized that troop numbers probably would be reduced gradually.

The senior U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are scheduled Sept. 15 to present a report to Congress about progress made in Iraq since the Bush administration's troop buildup plan began in February.

Embassy and military officials have downplayed the failure of Iraqi politicians to enact laws aimed at defusing tensions and sectarian violence. Instead, they pointed to what they term successes on the ground, including securing the cooperation of Sunni Arab tribes that had participated in the insurgency.

On Saturday, Petraeus told The Times: "We are very likely to have some recommendations on the way ahead. I am reluctant to try and put down timelines. I will come in with recommendations at some point that do lay out certain force structures over time, missions over time based on certain assumptions about continued progress."

President Bush has said he expects U.S. forces to still be in Iraq when his term ends in 2009. But Odierno's is the first open declaration of its kind by a top commander that the Americans plan to stay a few more years.

The Pentagon had confirmed the existence of a plan to secure Iraq by the end of 2009, but described the blueprint as dependent on conditions there, and did not specify that U.S. troops would be required for the entire period.


- General sees a few more years in Iraq, By Ned Parker and Alexandra Zavis, LA Times, August 1, 2007


Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

This week, my Administration submitted to Congress an interim report on the situation in Iraq. This report provides an initial assessment of how the Iraqi government is doing in meeting the 18 benchmarks that Congress asked us to measure. This is a preliminary report. In September, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment.

The interim report released this week finds that the Iraqis have made satisfactory progress in eight areas -- such as providing the three brigades they promised for the surge, establishing joint security stations in Baghdad neighborhoods, and providing $10 billion of their own money for reconstruction. In eight other areas, the progress was unsatisfactory -- such as failing to prepare for local elections or pass a law to share oil revenues. In two remaining areas, the progress was too unclear to be characterized one way or the other.

Those who believe that the battle in Iraq is lost are pointing to the unsatisfactory performance on some of the political benchmarks. Those of us who believe the battle in Iraq can and must be won see the satisfactory performance on several of the security benchmarks as a cause for optimism. Our strategy is built on the premise that progress on security will pave the way for political progress. This report shows that conditions can change, progress can be made, and the fight in Iraq can be won.
The strategy we are now pursuing is markedly different from the one we were following last year. It became clear that our approach in Iraq was not working. So I consulted my national security team, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and military commanders and diplomats on the ground. I brought in outside experts to hear their ideas. And after listening to this advice, in January I announced a new way forward -- sending reinforcements to help the Iraqis protect their people, improve their security forces, and advance the difficult process of reconciliation at both the national and local levels.

Our recent experience in Anbar Province shows what we hope to achieve throughout Iraq. As recently as last September, Anbar was held up as an example of America's failure in Iraq. Around the same time, the situation began to change. Sunni tribes that had been fighting alongside al Qaeda against our coalition came forward to fight alongside our coalition against al Qaeda. So I sent reinforcements to take advantage of this opportunity. And together we have driven al Qaeda from most of Anbar's capital city of Ramadi -- and attacks there are now at a two-year low.

We are now carrying out operations to replicate the success in Anbar in other parts of the country -- especially in the regions in and around Baghdad. We are starting to take the initiative away from al Qaeda -- and aiding the rise of an Iraqi government that can protect its people, deliver basic services, and be an ally in the war against extremists and radicals. By doing this, we are creating the conditions that will allow our troops to begin coming home. When America starts drawing down our forces in Iraq, it will be because our military commanders say the conditions on the ground are right -- not because pollsters say it would be good politics.

Some people say the surge has been going for six months and that is long enough to conclude that it has failed. In fact, the final reinforcements arrived in Iraq just a month ago -- and only then was General Petraeus able to launch the surge in full force. He and the troops who have begun these dangerous operations deserve the time and resources to carry them out.

To begin to bring troops home before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for our country. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda, risking a humanitarian catastrophe, and allowing the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq and gain control of vast oil resources they could use to fund new attacks on America. And it would increase the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.

Most Americans want to see two things in Iraq: They want to see our troops succeed, and they want to see our troops begin to come home. We can do both, and we will. Our troops in Iraq are serving bravely. They're making great sacrifices. Changing the conditions in Iraq is difficult, and it can be done. The best way to start bringing these good men and women home is to make sure the surge succeeds.


- George W. Bush, Radio Address, July 14, 2007


And in Iraq, American and Iraqi forces are standing with the nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a future of peace, and opposing ruthless enemies who want to bring down Iraq's democracy and turn that nation into a terrorist safe haven.

This week I traveled to the Naval War College in Rhode Island to give an update on the strategy we're pursuing in Iraq. This strategy is being led by a new commander, General David Petraeus, and a new Ambassador, Ryan Crocker. It recognizes that our top priority must be to help the Iraqi government and its security forces protect their population -- especially in Baghdad. And its goal is to help the Iraqis make progress toward reconciliation and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law and is an ally in the war on terror.

So America has sent reinforcements to help the Iraqis secure their population, go after the terrorists, insurgents and militias that are inciting sectarian violence, and get the capital under control. The last of these reinforcements arrived in Iraq earlier this month, and the full surge has begun. One of our top commanders in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, put it this way, "We are beyond a surge of forces. We're now into a surge of operations."

Recently, we launched Operation Phantom Thunder, which has taken the fight to the enemy in Baghdad, as well as the surrounding regions. We're still at the beginning of this offensive, but we're seeing some hopeful signs. We're engaging the enemy, and killing or capturing hundreds. Just this week, our commanders reported the killing of two senior al Qaeda leaders north of Baghdad. Within Baghdad, our military reports that despite an upward trend in May, sectarian murders in the capital are significantly down from what they were in January. We're also finding arms caches at more than three times the rate of a year ago.

The enemy continues to carry out sensational attacks, but the number of car bombings and suicide attacks has been down in May and June. And because of our new strategy, U.S. and Iraqi forces are living among the people they secure, with the result that many Iraqis are now coming forward with information on where the terrorists are hiding.

The fight in Iraq has been tough, and it will remain difficult. We've lost good men and women in this fight. One of those lost was a Marine Lance Corporal named Luke Yepsen. In the spring of 2005, Luke withdrew from his classes at Texas A&M to join the United States Marines. And in October 2006, he deployed to Iraq, where he manned a 50-caliber machine gun on a Humvee. Six months ago, Luke was killed by a sniper while on patrol in Anbar province. Luke's father describes his son's sacrifice this way: "Luke died bringing freedom to an oppressed people. My urgent request is ... finish the mission. Bring freedom to the Iraqi people."

On this Fourth of July, we remember Luke Yepsen and all the men and women in uniform who have given their lives in this struggle. They've helped bring freedom to the Iraqi people. They've helped make Americans more secure. We will not forget their sacrifice. We remember their loved ones in our prayers. And we give thanks for all those from every generation who have defended our Nation and our freedoms.


- George W. Bush, Radio Address, June 30, 2007


At this hour, America's brave men and women in uniform are engaging our enemies around the world. And in this time of war, our elected officials have no higher responsibility than to provide these troops with the funds and flexibility they need to prevail.

On Wednesday, I met with congressional leaders from both parties here at the White House. We discussed ways to pass a responsible emergency war spending bill that will fully fund our troops as quickly as possible. It was a positive meeting. Democratic leaders assured me they are committed to funding our troops, and I told them I'm committed to working with members of both parties to do just that.

I've appointed three senior members of my White House staff to negotiate with Congress on this vital legislation: my Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, and Budget Director Rob Portman. By working together, I believe we can pass a good bill quickly and give our troops the resources and flexibility they need.
Earlier this week, I vetoed the bill Congress sent me because it set a fixed date to begin to pull out of Iraq, imposed unworkable conditions on our military commanders, and included billions of dollars in spending unrelated to the war. And on Wednesday, the House voted to sustain my veto by a wide margin.

I recognize that many Democratic leaders saw this bill as an opportunity to make a statement about their opposition to the war. In a democracy, we should debate our differences openly and honestly. But now it is time to give our troops the resources they are waiting for.

Our troops are now carrying out a new strategy in Iraq under the leadership of a new commander -- General David Petraeus. He's an expert in counter-insurgency warfare. The goal of the new strategy he is implementing is to help the Iraqis secure their capital, so they can make progress toward reconciliation and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law, and fights extremists alongside the United States in the war on terror. This strategy is still in its early stages, and Congress needs to give General Petraeus' plan a chance to work.

I know that Republicans and Democrats will not agree on every issue in this war. But the consequences of failure in Iraq are clear. If we were to leave Iraq before the government can defend itself, there would be a security vacuum in the country. Extremists from all factions could compete to fill that vacuum, causing sectarian killing to multiply on a horrific scale.

If radicals and terrorists emerge from this battle with control of Iraq, they would have control of a nation with massive oil reserves, which they could use to fund their dangerous ambitions and spread their influence. The al Qaeda terrorists who behead captives or order suicide bombings would not be satisfied to see America defeated and gone from Iraq. They would be emboldened by their victory, protected by their new sanctuary, eager to impose their hateful vision on surrounding countries, and eager to harm Americans.

No responsible leader in Washington has an interest in letting that happen. I call on Congress to work with my Administration and quickly craft a responsible war spending bill. We must provide our men and women in uniform with the resources and support they deserve. I'm confident that leaders of goodwill can deliver this important result.


- George W. Bush, Radio Address, May 5, 2007


Twelve weeks ago, I asked the Congress to pass an emergency war spending bill that would provide our brave men and women in uniform with the funds and flexibility they need.

Instead, members of the House and the Senate passed a bill that substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders. So a few minutes ago, I vetoed this bill.

Tonight I will explain the reasons for this veto -- and my desire to work with Congress to resolve this matter as quickly as possible. We can begin tomorrow with a bipartisan meeting with the congressional leaders here at the White House.

Here is why the bill Congress passed is unacceptable. First, the bill would mandate a rigid and artificial deadline for American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq. That withdrawal could start as early as July 1st. And it would have to start no later than October 1st, regardless of the situation on the ground.

It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing. All the terrorists would have to do is mark their calendars and gather their strength -- and begin plotting how to overthrow the government and take control of the country of Iraq. I believe setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people, would encourage killers across the broader Middle East, and send a signal that America will not keep its commitments. Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure -- and that would be irresponsible.

Second, the bill would impose impossible conditions on our commanders in combat. After forcing most of our troops to withdraw, the bill would dictate the terms on which the remaining commanders and troops could engage the enemy. That means American commanders in the middle of a combat zone would have to take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away in Washington, D.C. This is a prescription for chaos and confusion, and we must not impose it on our troops.

Third, the bill is loaded with billions of dollars in non-emergency spending that has nothing to do with fighting the war on terror. Congress should debate these spending measures on their own merits -- and not as part of an emergency funding bill for our troops.

The Democratic leaders know that many in Congress disagree with their approach, and that there are not enough votes to override a veto. I recognize that many Democrats saw this bill as an opportunity to make a political statement about their opposition to the war. They've sent their message. And now it is time to put politics behind us and support our troops with the funds they need.

Our troops are carrying out a new strategy with a new commander -- General David Petraeus. The goal of this new strategy is to help the Iraqis secure their capital, so they can make progress toward reconciliation, and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law, and fights extremists and radicals and killers alongside the United States in this war on terror.

In January, General Petraeus was confirmed by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate. In February, we began sending the first of the reinforcements he requested. Not all of these reinforcements have arrived. And as General Petraeus has said, it will be at least the end of summer before we can assess the impact of this operation. Congress ought to give General Petraeus' plan a chance to work.

In the months since our military has been implementing this plan, we've begun to see some important results. For example, Iraqi and coalition forces have closed down an al Qaeda car bomb network, they've captured a Shia militia leader implicated in the kidnapping and killing of American soldiers, they've broken up a death squad that had terrorized hundreds of residents in a Baghdad neighborhood.

Last week, General Petraeus was in Washington to brief me, and he briefed members of Congress on how the operation is unfolding. He noted that one of the most important indicators of progress is the level of sectarian violence in Baghdad. And he reported that since January, the number of sectarian murders has dropped substantially.

Even as sectarian attacks have declined, we continue to see spectacular suicide attacks that have caused great suffering. These attacks are largely the work of al Qaeda -- the enemy that everyone agrees we should be fighting. The objective of these al Qaeda attacks is to subvert our efforts by reigniting the sectarian violence in Baghdad -- and breaking support for the war here at home. In Washington last week, General Petraeus explained it this way: "Iraq is, in fact, the central front of all al Qaeda's global campaign."

Al Qaeda -- al Qaeda's role makes the conflict in Iraq far more complex than a simple fight between Iraqis. It's true that not everyone taking innocent life in Iraq wants to attack America here at home. But many do. Many also belong to the same terrorist network that attacked us on September 11th, 2001 -- and wants to attack us here at home again. We saw the death and destruction al Qaeda inflicted on our people when they were permitted a safe haven in Afghanistan. For the security of the American people, we must not allow al Qaeda to establish a new safe haven in Iraq.

We need to give our troops all the equipment and the training and protection they need to prevail. That means that Congress needs to pass an emergency war spending bill quickly. I've invited leaders of both parties to come to the White House tomorrow -- and to discuss how we can get these vital funds to our troops. I am confident that with goodwill on both sides, we can agree on a bill that gets our troops the money and flexibility they need as soon as possible.

The need to act is urgent. Without a war funding bill, the military has to take money from some other account or training program so the troops in combat have what they need. Without a war funding bill, the Armed Forces will have to consider cutting back on buying new equipment or repairing existing equipment. Without a war funding bill, we add to the uncertainty felt by our military families. Our troops and their families deserve better -- and their elected leaders can do better.

Here in Washington, we have our differences on the way forward in Iraq, and we will debate them openly. Yet whatever our differences, surely we can agree that our troops are worthy of this funding -- and that we have a responsibility to get it to them without further delay.

Thank you for listening. May God bless our troops.


- George W. Bush, President Bush Rejects Artificial Deadline, Vetoes Iraq War Supplemental, May 1, 2007


If you know of any other instances where a top official describes the exit strategy (or non-exit strategy) from Iraq, please email the information to me.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

What is the latest exit strategy from Iraq?

What is the Iraq exit strategy?

What is the exit strategy from Iraq?

What is the Iraq war's exit strategy?

What is the official exit strategy from the war in Iraq?

What is the Iraq war's official exit strategy?


Page created on February 7, 2005





"To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." - Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals - Nuremberg, Germany 1946


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, some of the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Logo

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