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A living history of the Iraq war's exit strategy

What is the exit strategy from the war in Iraq?

It 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 9, 1999.

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

Updated May 09, 2022

Q Mr. President, it's -- 140,000 Americans are spending this Christmas in Iraq, as you know, some of them their second Christmas there. Now, you outlined your vision for Iraq, both in your statement and in response to David Gregory. My question is, how long do you think it will take that vision to be realized and how long will those troops be there?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it's a very legitimate question, Carl, and I get asked that by family members I meet with -- and people say, how long do you think it will take. And my answer is -- you know, we would like to achieve our objective as quickly as possible. It is our commander -- again -- I can -- the best people that reflect the answer to that question are people like Abizaid and Casey, who are right there on the ground. And they are optimistic and positive about the gains we're making.

Again, I repeat, we're under no illusions that this Iraqi force is not ready to fight. They're -- in toto, there are units that are, and that they believe they'll have a command structure stood up pretty quickly; that the training is intense; that the recruitment is good; the equipping of troops is taking place. So they're optimistic that as soon as possible it can be achieved. But it's -- I'm also wise enough not to give you a specific moment in time because, sure enough, if we don't achieve it, I'll spend the next press conference I have with you answering why we didn't achieve this specific moment.

- George W. Bush, press conference, December 20, 2004


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iraq's interim president has said he sees no reason why the insurgency should not be vanquished within a year and Iraq well on its way toward becoming a constitutional democracy.

"Why not?" Ghazi al-Yawar said in a CNN interview on Wednesday. "We're not fighting a Viet Cong, which has principles and popular support. We are fighting Saddam loyalists. ... They know they are fighting for a losing battle. The whole Iraqi population is against them. I'm sick and tired of them.

"Iraqi interim president: Insurgents will be gone in a year", December 9, 2004


© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

MR. RUSSERT: Realistically, how long do you think American troops are going to have to stay in Iraq?

PRES. AL-YAWAR: As long as we can--I hope it will be as short as we can build our security forces 100 percent. That is not impossible. Iraq is very well-known in the Middle East for the human resources we have. We have extremely qualified people. We have to start revisiting the issue of the old army and try to screen of--the people and bring back some of the people who have never had bloodstained hands in the past.

MR. RUSSERT: But that will take several years.

PRES. AL-YAWAR: No. I don't think it will take several years.

MR. RUSSERT: You believe American troops...

PRES. AL-YAWAR: It will take months.

MR. RUSSERT: You think American troops could be out of Iraq in months?

PRES. AL-YAWAR: Well, months--we're talking about months, probably; I don't know, six months or eight months or a year. But I don't think it will take years. Definitely not.

MR. RUSSERT: And American troops can come home?

PRES. AL-YAWAR: Yes, but after--when we build our security forces. I mean, this is a job which has been done, and this is--America cannot afford to retreat at this time. This will be bad for Iraq, the Middle East, and to the United States and the world.

- Interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar, on NBC's Meet The Press, December 5, 2004


© 2005

"The success of democracy in Iraq would be a crushing blow to the forces of terror, and the terrorists know it. The defeat of terror in Iraq will set that nation on a course to lasting freedom, and will give hope to millions, and the Iraqi people know it. And a free, democratic Iraq will inspire reformers throughout the Middle East and make America more secure. The United States and our allies have shown our determination to help Iraqis achieve their liberty. We will continue to stand by our friends, and we will finish the job."

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, November 13, 2004


"...we will work with the Allawi government to achieve our objective, which is elections, on the path to stability, and we'll continue to train the troops. Our commanders will have that which they need to complete their missions."

- George W. Bush, Press Conference, November 4, 2004


"We will help the emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan so they can grow in strength and defend their freedom. And then our servicemen and women will come home with the honor they have earned."

- George W. Bush, Presidential Election Victory Speech, November 3, 2004.


"The enemies of freedom are using suicide bombings, beheadings, and other horrific acts to try to block progress. We are sickened by their atrocities, but we will never be intimidated, and freedom is winning.

We're making steady progress in implementing our five-step plan toward the goal we all want: completing the mission so that Iraq is stable and self-governing, and American troops can come home with the honor they have earned.

The first step was achieved on June 28th, not only on time, but ahead of schedule, when the coalition transferred full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens.

The second step is to help Iraq's new government establish stability and security. Nearly 100,000 fully trained and equipped Iraqi soldiers, police officers, and other security personnel are working today, and the Iraqi government is on track to build a force of over 200,000 security personnel by the end of 2005.

In Najaf and other important areas, Iraqi military forces have performed with skill and success. The government's strategy is to surround and isolate enemy militias, reach out to the local population, and negotiate from a position of strength. Serious problems remain in several cities. Yet, Prime Minister Allawi believes this combination of decisive action and outreach to peaceful citizens is the most effective way to defeat the killers and secure the peace. And America stands with him.

The third step in our plan is to continue improving Iraq's infrastructure. Today, in most of Iraq, children are about to go back to school, parents are going back to work, and new businesses are being opened. Electricity has been restored above pre-war levels. Telephone service has increased dramatically. In the next several months, more than $9 billion will be spent on contracts that will help Iraqis rebuild schools, refurbish hospitals and health clinics, repair bridges, upgrade the electrical grid, and modernize the communication system. Prime Minister Allawi and I agree that the pace of reconstruction can and should be accelerated, and we're working toward that goal.

The fourth step in our plan is to enlist additional international support for Iraq's transition to democracy. The multinational force of some 30 nations continues to help secure a free Iraq, and we are grateful for the service and sacrifice of all. Our coalition is also grateful that the United Nations has reestablished it's mission in Baghdad. We are grateful to the G-8 countries and the European Union for pledging support to the new Iraqi government. We are grateful to the NATO Alliance for help in training Iraqi forces. And we are grateful to many of Iraq's creditors, which have agreed to a further reduction of Iraq's debt.

The fifth and most important step in our plan is to help Iraq conduct free national elections no later than January. An Iraqi electoral commission has already hired personnel, and is making key decisions about election procedures. Just this week, the commission began a public education campaign to inform Iraqis about the process and encourage them to become voters. United Nations electoral advisors are on the ground in Iraq, and Prime Minister Allawi and I have urged the U.N. to send more personnel to help ensure the success of the Iraqi elections.

The war for Iraq's freedom is a fight against some of the most ruthless and brutal men on Earth. In such a struggle, there will be good days and there will be difficult days. But every day, our resolve must remain the same: Iraq, America, and our coalition will stand firm, and Iraq will be free, the world will be more peaceful, and America will be more secure."

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, September 25, 2004


We're working with the international partners, we're training Iraqi troops, we're reconstructing the -- reconstructing the company, (sic) we're preparing for elections. They're going to have elections in January.

Our work in Iraq is hard work. There are people there who want to stop the march to democracy, that's what they're trying to do. They want us to leave. They want us to quit. Our work in Iraq is absolutely essential -- Iraq -- essential for our country's security. For our children and grandchildren to grow up in a safer world, we must defeat the terrorists and the insurgents, and complete our mission in rebuilding Iraq as a stable democracy.

I'm going to New York after this, and in the next couple of days I'll be meeting with Prime Minister Allawi, the Prime Minister of Iraq.  He is a strong and determined leader. He understands the stakes in this battle. I hope the American people will listen carefully to his assessment of the situation in his country. We must show resolve and determination. Mixed signals are the wrong signals to send to the enemy. Mixed signals are the wrong signals to send to the people in Iraq. Mixed signals are the wrong signals to send to our allies. And mixed signals are the wrong signals to send to our troops in combat.


Someday -- we will succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan by being firm in our beliefs, unyielding to the demands of those who want us to quit, those terrorists who are trying to kill people to get us to leave. That's what they're trying to do. We'll be successful. Everybody longs to be free. And when we are, we'll be able to look back and say, the world is better off. Someday, an American President and an Iraqi leader are going to sit down, talking about keeping the peace, talking about how to make a part of the world that is so desperate for freedom become a more peaceful place. And our grandchildren and our grandchildren's children will be better off for it.


I met with many families who have lost a loved one in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it's -- you know, it's a hard part of the job and it's a necessary part of the job. And I assure them that their loved one will not die in vain because we will complete the mission. And the mission will make the world a better place.  And that's what you've got to tell this guy when he gets home, that his service and the service of those buddies of his who lost their life were part of securing America.

Because, one, Prime Minister Allawi says, we've got to defeat them in Iraq; otherwise we'll face them here. It's essential that people understand the world has changed. It's a different world we live in.

Secondly, that by helping Iraq become a secure nation, and by training Iraqis so they can do the hard work of defending their freedom against a few who want to stop the march to liberty, we're making ourself more secure. A free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will make the world a more peaceful place.


Zarqawi -- look, here's the situation. It's tough as heck in Iraq right now because people are trying to stop democracy. That's what you're seeing. And Iraqis are losing lives, and so are some of our soldiers. And it breaks my heart to see the loss of innocent life and to see brave troops in combat lose their life. It just breaks my heart. But I understand what's going on. These people are trying to shake the will of the Iraqi citizens, and they want us to leave. That's what they want us to do.

And I think the world would be better off if we did leave -- if we didn't -- if we left, the world would be worse. The world is better off with us not leaving. It's a mistake to pull out. Can you imagine what Iraq would be like today if Saddam Hussein were in power? It would be terrible for them, and we'd be dealing with a guy who had just totally ignored the demands of the free world. The sanctions weren't working. We know he had the capability of making weapons and it was just a matter of time.

No, we didn't find the stockpiles we thought would be there. But his desire to make weapons and the ability to make them and the ability to work with these terrorist organizations was a threat we could not afford to take.

Secondly, if we put an artificial timetable out there on withdrawal, all the enemies says is, we'll wait them out. Our mission has got to be to help to train the Iraqis, get them on the path to stability and democracy as quickly as we can, and then our troops come home. But to complete the mission. It makes no sense to pull out of there early. If we pull out of there early, Iraq will come even more dangerous.  See, we've got to get it right in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we will. And now, it's a matter of will.

You asked me what's it's like there. It's tough. But Prime Minister Allawi is the best way to -- the best person to talk to there. He said, this is -- this is desperation by these people. They're watching TV screens, too. They're watching the reactions of people around the world. They see countries pull out of Iraq. They saw what happened when one country pulled out after a citizen was beheaded. They saw what happened after elections in Europe. They know that people are -- can grow weary of this battle. We've got to be firm and strong. I believe we're right in what we're doing. And I believe democracy in Iraq is going to happen, and I believe the world will be better off for it.

- George W. Bush, President's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event in Derry, New Hampshire, September 20, 2004

"So our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is clear: We will help new leaders to train their armies, and move toward elections, and get on the path of stability and democracy as quickly as possible. And then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned."

- George W. Bush at the 2004 Republican National Convention, September 2, 2004


Before September the 11th, the ruler of Iraq was a sworn enemy of America. He was defying the world. He was firing weapons at American pilots who were enforcing the world's sanctions. He had pursued and he had used weapons of mass destruction. He harbored -- he had harbored terrorists. He invaded his neighbors. He subsidized the families of suicide bombers. He and his henchmen murdered tens of thousands of his own citizens. He was a source of instability in the world's most volatile region. Saddam Hussein was a threat.

After September the 11th, one of the lessons this country must always remember is that we must take threats seriously before they fully materialize.  So I went to the United States Congress, and members of both political parties, including my opponent, looked at the intelligence and looked at the background and came to the same conclusion, Saddam Hussein was a threat.

Before a President every commits troops, we must try all other alternatives to deal with threats. And so I went to the United Nations. I said to the free world, Saddam Hussein is a threat. They looked at the same intelligence and came to the same conclusion with a 15-to-nothing vote in U.N. Security Council. They said, disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences. The world had spoken.

But as he had for over a decade. Saddam Hussein defied the demands of the free world. He ignored the demands of the United Nations. As a matter of fact, when we sent inspectors -- or when the U.N. sent inspectors into Iraq, he systematically deceived the inspectors. So I had a choice to make: Do I forget the lessons of September the 11th and take the word of a madman, or do I take action to defend our country. Given that choice, I will defend America every time.

Even though -- even though we did not find the stockpiles that we thought we would find, Saddam Hussein had the capability of making weapons of mass destruction, and he could have passed that capability on to the enemy, and that was a risk we could not afford to take after September the 11th. Knowing what I know today, I would have taken the same action. America and the world are safer with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell.

We will continue to work with friends and allies around the world to aggressively pursue the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. You cannot talk sense to these people. You cannot negotiate with them. You cannot hope for the best. We must aggressively pursue them around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.

In this different kind of war, we may never sit down at a peace table. But make no mistake about it, we are winning, and we will win. We will win by staying on the offensive. We will win by spreading liberty. We believe that liberty can transform nations from tyranny into peaceful nations. And so we'll keep our commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. We will help them become peaceful and democratic countries that are allies in the war on terror.

Those leaders -- countries are now governed by strong leaders who believe in the aspirations of their people. We'll help them in the political process. More importantly, we will train Afghan citizens and Iraqi citizens so they can defend their own country against a few who would stop the wishes of the many. Our military will complete this mission as quickly as possible so our troops do not stay a day longer than necessary.


In the long run, in the long run, our security is not guaranteed by force alone. We must work to change the conditions that give rise to terror: poverty and hopelessness and resentment. A free and peaceful Iraq and a free and peaceful Afghanistan will be powerful examples in part of the world that is desperate for freedom.

By serving the ideal of liberty, we're bringing hope to others, and we're making our country more secure. By serving the ideal of liberty, we are making the world more peaceful. And by serving the ideal of liberty, we're serving the deepest ideals of the American soul. Freedom is not America's gift to the world' freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world.


As our troops serve today in Baghdad and Mosul and the Hindu Kush Mountains and around the world, I know American veterans feel a special pride in them. They're carrying on your legacy of sacrifice and service. They're determined to see the mission through. America is proud of them. America will stand with them.


- George W. Bush, Remarks by the President of the American Legion, August 31, 2004


"In the next few weeks, important decisions will be made on the make-up of an interim government. And on June 30th, the flag of a free Iraq will be raised, and Iraq's new interim government will assume a sovereign authority. America will keep its commitment to the independence and national dignity of the Iraqi people. Yet the vital mission of our military in helping to provide security will continue on July 1st and beyond. Coalition forces are training thousands of Iraqis to protect a free Iraq from external aggression and internal subversion. Our forces will remain in Iraq to assist the Iraqi people until Iraqis can secure their own country."

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, May 15, 2004


"Our mission in Iraq will continue on July 1st, and beyond. We have no intention of leaving that nation at the mercy of thugs and murderers. We're determined to help build a free and stable Iraq, a nation at peace with its neighbors and with the world."

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, May 8, 2004


"Our coalition is implementing a clear strategy in Iraq. First, we will ensure an atmosphere of security as Iraqis move toward self-government. Our coalition supports the efforts of local Iraqis to negotiate the disarmament of the radicals in Fallujah. We've also made it clear that militias in Najaf and elsewhere must disarm or face grave consequences. American and coalition forces are in place, and we are prepared to enforce order in Iraq.

The second element of our strategy is to return sovereignty to the people of Iraq on the schedule that we agreed to with the Iraqi Governing Council. Like any proud people, Iraqis want to manage their own affairs -- and that is a goal we share. On June 30th, a sovereign Iraqi interim government will take office. Iraqis will assume all administrative duties now performed by the coalition. Since February, United Nations Special Advisor Lakhdar Brahimi has been consulting with Iraqis on how best to form that interim government. The United States fully supports his mission.

As the transfer of sovereignty approaches on June 30th, we are likely to see more violence from groups opposed to freedom. We will not be intimidated or diverted. On July 1st, and beyond, our reconstruction and military commitment will continue.

In the cause of a free and stable Iraq, our servicemen and women are working hard and sacrificing greatly. And families of the brave troops who have fallen must know that their loss is not in vain. We will finish our work in Iraq, because the stakes for our country and the world are high. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the globe, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the Middle East. The success of Iraqi democracy would send forth the news, from Damascus to Tehran, that freedom can be the future of every nation. And democracy will succeed in Iraq, because our coalition is strong, because our resolve is firm, and because the people of Iraq desire and deserve to live in freedom."

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, May 1, 2004


Our nation honors the memory of those who have been killed, and we pray that their families will find God's comfort in the midst of their grief. As I have said to those who have lost loved ones, we will finish the work of the fallen.

America's armed forces are performing brilliantly, with all the skill and honor we expect of them. We're constantly reviewing their needs. Troop strength, now and in the future, is determined by the situation on the ground. If additional forces are needed, I will send them. If additional resources are needed, we will provide them. The people of our country are united behind our men and women in uniform, and this government will do all that is necessary to assure the success of their historic mission.

One central commitment of that mission is the transfer of sovereignty back to the Iraqi people. We have set a deadline of June 30th. It is important that we meet that deadline. As a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation -- and neither does America. We're not an imperial power, as nations such as Japan and Germany can attest. We are a liberating power, as nations in Europe and Asia can attest, as well. America's objective in Iraq is limited, and it is firm: We seek an independent, free and secure Iraq.

Were the coalition to step back from the June 30th pledge, many Iraqis would question our intentions and feel their hopes betrayed. And those in Iraq who trade in hatred and conspiracy theories would find a larger audience and gain a stronger hand. We will not step back from our pledge. On June 30th, Iraqi sovereignty will be placed in Iraqi hands.

Sovereignty involves more than a date and a ceremony. It requires Iraqis to assume responsibility for their own future. Iraqi authorities are now confronting the security challenge of the last several weeks. In Fallujah, coalition forces have suspended offensive operations, allowing members of the Iraqi Governing Council and local leaders to work on the restoration of central authority in that city. These leaders are communicating with the insurgents to ensure an orderly turnover of that city to Iraqi forces, so that the resumption of military action does not become necessary. They're also insisting that those who killed and mutilated four American contract workers be handed over for trial and punishment. In addition, members of the Governing Council are seeking to resolve the situation in the south. Al-Sadr must answer the charges against him and disband his illegal militia.

Our coalition is standing with responsible Iraqi leaders as they establish growing authority in their country. The transition to sovereignty requires that we demonstrate confidence in Iraqis, and we have that confidence. Many Iraqi leaders are showing great personal courage, and their example will bring out the same quality in others. The transition to sovereignty also requires an atmosphere of security, and our coalition is working to provide that security. We will continue taking the greatest care to prevent harm to innocent civilians; yet we will not permit the spread of chaos and violence. I have directed our military commanders to make every preparation to use decisive force, if necessary, to maintain order and to protect our troops.

The nation of Iraq is moving toward self-rule, and Iraqis and Americans will see evidence in the months to come. On June 30th, when the flag of free Iraq is raised, Iraqi officials will assume full responsibility for the ministries of government. On that day, the transitional administrative law, including a bill of rights that is unprecedented in the Arab world, will take full effect.

The United States, and all the nations of our coalition, will establish normal diplomatic relations with the Iraqi government. An American embassy will open, and an American ambassador will be posted.

According to the schedule already approved by the Governing Council, Iraq will hold elections for a national assembly no later than next January. That assembly will draft a new, permanent constitution which will be presented to the Iraqi people in a national referendum held in October of next year. Iraqis will then elect a permanent government by December 15, 2005 -- an event that will mark the completion of Iraq's transition from dictatorship to freedom.

Other nations and international institutions are stepping up to their responsibilities in building a free and secure Iraq. We're working closely with the United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, and with Iraqis to determine the exact form of the government that will receive sovereignty on June 30th. The United Nations election assistance team, headed by Karina Parelli (phonetic), is in Iraq, developing plans for next January's election. NATO is providing support for the Polish-led multinational division in Iraq. And 17 of NATO's 26 members are contributing forces to maintain security.

Secretary of State Powell and Secretary of State Rumsfeld, and a number of NATO defense and foreign ministers are exploring a more formal role for NATO, such as turning the Polish-led division into a NATO operation, and giving NATO specific responsibilities for border control.

Iraqi's neighbors also have responsibilities to make their region more stable. So I am sending Deputy Secretary of State Armitage to the Middle East to discuss with these nations our common interest in a free and independent Iraq, and how they can help achieve this goal.

As we've made clear all along, our commitment to the success and security of Iraq will not end on June 30th. On July 1st, and beyond, our reconstruction assistance will continue, and our military commitment will continue. Having helped Iraqis establish a new government, coalition military forces will help Iraqis to protect their government from external aggression and internal subversion.

The success of free government in Iraq is vital for many reasons. A free Iraq is vital because 25 million Iraqis have as much right to live in freedom as we do. A free Iraq will stand as an example to reformers across the Middle East. A free Iraq will show that America is on the side of Muslims who wish to live in peace, as we have already shown in Kuwait and Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan. A free Iraq will confirm to a watching world that America's word, once given, can be relied upon, even in the toughest times.

Above all, the defeat of violence and terror in Iraq is vital to the defeat of violence and terror elsewhere; and vital, therefore, to the safety of the American people. Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver.

The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar. The terrorist who takes hostages, or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid, and murders children on buses in Jerusalem, and blows up a nightclub in Bali, and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew.

We've seen the same ideology of murder in the killing of 241 Marines in Beirut, the first attack on the World Trade Center, in the destruction of two embassies in Africa, in the attack on the USS Cole, and in the merciless horror inflicted upon thousands of innocent men and women and children on September the 11th, 2001.

None of these acts is the work of a religion; all are the work of a fanatical, political ideology. The servants of this ideology seek tyranny in the Middle East and beyond. They seek to oppress and persecute women. They seek the death of Jews and Christians, and every Muslim who desires peace over theocratic terror. They seek to intimidate America into panic and retreat, and to set free nations against each other. And they seek weapons of mass destruction, to blackmail and murder on a massive scale.

Over the last several decades, we've seen that any concession or retreat on our part will only embolden this enemy and invite more bloodshed. And the enemy has seen, over the last 31 months, that we will no longer live in denial or seek to appease them. For the first time, the civilized world has provided a concerted response to the ideology of terror -- a series of powerful, effective blows.

The terrorists have lost the shelter of the Taliban and the training camps in Afghanistan. They've lost safe havens in Pakistan. They lost an ally in Baghdad. And Libya has turned its back on terror. They've lost many leaders in an unrelenting international manhunt. And perhaps most frightening to these men and their movement, the terrorists are seeing the advance of freedom and reform in the greater Middle East.

A desperate enemy is also a dangerous enemy, and our work may become more difficult before it is finished. No one can predict all the hazards that lie ahead, or the costs they will bring. Yet, in this conflict, there is no safe alternative to resolute action. The consequences of failure in Iraq would be unthinkable. Every friend of America and Iraq would be betrayed to prison and murder as a new tyranny arose. Every enemy of America and the world would celebrate, proclaiming our weakness and decadence, and using that victory to recruit a new generation of killers.

We will succeed in Iraq. We're carrying out a decision that has already been made and will not change: Iraq will be a free, independent country, and America and the Middle East will be safer because of it. Our coalition has the means and the will to prevail. We serve the cause of liberty, and that is, always and everywhere, a cause worth serving.

Now, I'll be glad to take your questions. I will start with you.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, April is turning into the deadliest month in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, and some people are comparing Iraq to Vietnam and talking about a quagmire. Polls show that support for your policy is declining and that fewer than half Americans now support it. What does that say to you and how do you answer the Vietnam comparison?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops, and sends the wrong message to the enemy. Look, this is hard work. It's hard to advance freedom in a country that has been strangled by tyranny. And, yet, we must stay the course, because the end result is in our nation's interest.

A secure and free Iraq is an historic opportunity to change the world and make America more secure. A free Iraq in the midst of the Middle East will have incredible change. It's hard -- freedom is not easy to achieve. We had a little trouble in our country achieving freedom. And we've been there a year, Terry. I know it seems like a long time, it seems like a long time to the loved ones whose troops have been overseas. But when you think about where the country has come from, it's a relatively short period of time. And we're making progress.

There's no question it's been a tough, tough series of weeks for the American people. It's been really tough for the families. I understand that. It's been tough on this administration. But we're doing the right thing.

And as to whether or not I make decisions based upon polls, I don't. I just don't make decisions that way. I fully understand the consequences of what we're doing. We're changing the world. And the world will be better off and America will be more secure as a result of the actions we're taking.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. What's your best prediction on how long U.S. troops will have to be in Iraq? And it sounds like you will have to add some troops; is that a fair assessment?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I -- first of all, that's up to General Abizaid, and he's clearly indicating that he may want more troops. It's coming up through the chain of command. If that's what he wants, that's what he gets. Generally, we've had about 115,000 troops in Iraq. There's 135,000 now, as a result of the changeover from one division to the next. If he wants to keep troops there to help, I'm more than willing to say, "Yes, General Abizaid."

I talk to General Abizaid quite frequently. I'm constantly asking him, does he have what he needs -- whether it be in troop strength, or in equipment. He and General Sanchez talk all the time. And if he makes the recommendation, he'll get it.

In terms of how long we'll be there: as long as necessary, and not one day more. The Iraqi people need us there to help with security. They need us there to fight off these violent few who are doing everything they can to resist the advance of freedom. And I mentioned who they are.

And as I mentioned in my opening remarks, our commanders on the ground have got the authority necessary to deal with violence, and will -- and will in firm fashion. And that's what, by far, the vast majority of the Iraqis want -- they want security so they can advance toward a free society.

Once we transfer sovereignty, we'll enter into a security agreement with the government to which we pass sovereignty, the entity to which we pass sovereignty. And we'll need to be there for a while. We'll also need to continue training the Iraqi troops. I was disappointed in the performance of some of the troops. Some of the units performed brilliantly; some of them didn't, and we need to find out why.

If they're lacking equipment, we'll get them equipment. If there needs to be more intense training, we'll get more intense training. But, eventually, Iraq's security is going to be handled by the Iraqi people, themselves.


Finally, the attitude of the Iraqis toward the American people -- it's an interesting question. They're really pleased we got rid of Saddam Hussein. And you can understand why. This is a guy who was a torturer, a killer, a maimer; there's mass graves. I mean, he was a horrible individual that really shocked the country in many ways, shocked it into a kind of -- a fear of making decisions toward liberty. That's what we've seen recently. Some citizens are fearful of stepping up. And they were happy -- they're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either. They do want us there to help with security, and that's why this transfer of sovereignty is an important signal to send, and it's why it's also important for them to hear we will stand with them until they become a free country.


One of the things I've found, John, is that in calling around -- particularly during this week, I spoke to Prime Minister Berlusconi and President Kwasniewski -- there is a resolve by these leaders that is a heartening resolve. Tony Blair is the same way -- he understands, like I understand, that we cannot yield at this point in time; that we must remain steadfast and strong; that it's the intentions of the enemy to shake our will. That's what they want to do -- they want us to leave. And we're not going to leave. We're going to do the job. And a free Iraq is going to be a major blow for terrorism. It will change the world. A free Iraq in the midst of the Middle East is vital to future peace and security.


The legacy that our troops are going to leave behind is a legacy of lasting importance, as far as I'm concerned. It's a legacy that really is based upon our deep belief that people want to be free and that free societies are peaceful societies.

Some of the debate really center around the fact that people don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing and free. I strongly disagree with that. I reject that, because I believe that freedom is the deepest need of every human soul, and, if given a chance, the Iraqi people will be not only self-governing, but a stable and free society.


And one of the things that's very important, Judy, as far as I'm concerned, is to never allow our youngsters to die in vain. And I made that pledge to their parents. Withdrawing from the battlefield of Iraq would be just that. And it's not going to happen under my watch.


Weeks such as we've had in Iraq make some doubt whether or not we're making progress. I understand that. It was a tough, tough period. But we are making progress.

And my message today to those in Iraq is: We'll stay the course; we'll complete the job. My message to our troops is: We will stay the course and complete the job and you'll have what you need. And my message to the loved ones who are worried about their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, is: You're loved one is performing a noble service for the cause of freedom and peace.

- George W. Bush, President Addresses the Nation in Prime Time Press Conference, April 13, 2004


"The transition to sovereignty will mark the beginning of a new government, and the end of the coalition's administrative duties. But the coalition's commitment to Iraq will continue. We will establish a new American embassy to protect our nation's interests. We will continue helping the Iraqi people reconstruct their economy, undermined by decades of dictatorship and corruption. And our coalition forces will remain committed to the security of Iraq.

Iraq's elections for a permanent government are scheduled to be held near the end of 2005, and the elected government can count on coalition assistance. We will stand with the Iraqi people as long as necessary, to ensure that their young democracy is stable and secure and successful."

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, April 10, 2004


"Those who may be fearful that our forces will leave when sovereignty transfers or before the job is done, you have nothing to fear. The United States will stay the course. We will stay until the task is complete. As President Bush has said, we did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq and pay a bitter cost of casualties to liberate 25 million people, only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins. We're facing a test of will, and we will meet that test. It is also a test of the will of the Iraqi people, who seek freedom and the chance to live a decent life. And we're determined to prevail."

- Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Department Operational Briefing, April 7, 2004



"The resolve of our coalition is firm. We will never turn over Iraq to terrorists who intend our own destruction. We will not fail the Iraqi people, who have placed their trust in us. Whatever it takes, we will fight and work to assure the success of freedom in Iraq."

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, March 20, 2004


"The Iraqi people refuse to live in fear, and so do the members of our coalition. Fighting alongside the people of Iraq, we will defeat the terrorists who seek to plunge Iraq into chaos and violence, and we will stand with the people of Iraq for as long as necessary to build a stable, peaceful and successful democracy."

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, March 6, 2004


"Certainly our goal is to leave Iraq, but we can't leave Iraq with our forces until we know that the Iraqi security forces are capable and efficient enough to defend the sovereignty of the nation. And over time, I think, as Iraqi security capacity builds, you'll see American and coalition presence there decline."

The head of U.S. Central Command General John Abizaid speaks with Jim Lehrer, March 4, 2004


Copyright ©2005 MacNeil/Lehrer Productions.

Having broken the Baathist regime, we face a remnant of violent Saddam supporters. Men who ran away from our troops in battle are now dispersed and attack from the shadows. These killers, joined by foreign terrorists, are a serious, continuing danger. Yet we're making progress against them. The once all-powerful ruler of Iraq was found in a hole, and now sits in a prison cell.  Of the top 55 officials of the former regime, we have captured or killed 45. Our forces are on the offensive, leading over 1,600 patrols a day and conducting an average of 180 raids a week. We are dealing with these thugs in Iraq, just as surely as we dealt with Saddam Hussein's evil regime.

The work of building a new Iraq is hard, and it is right. And America has always been willing to do what it takes for what is right. Last January, Iraq's only law was the whim of one brutal man. Today our coalition is working with the Iraqi Governing Council to draft a basic law, with a bill of rights. We're working with Iraqis and the United Nations to prepare for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June.

As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear. They are trying to shake the will of our country and our friends, but the United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins.  The killers will fail, and the Iraqi people will live in freedom.

Month by month, Iraqis are assuming more responsibility for their own security and their own future. And tonight we are honored to welcome one of Iraq's most respected leaders: the current President of the Iraqi Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi.

Sir, America stands with you and the Iraqi people as you build a free and peaceful nation.

- George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2004


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.


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