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IRAQ EXIT STRATEGY early 2006

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Here is the history of 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 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 02, 2007


Q General Schoomaker said this morning that for planning purposes, the Army is putting together troop rotations at current levels through 2010. And I realize that planning is done with a lot of uncertainty in mind. My question to you is, can you keep up that pace for that long without loosening the limitations on the use of National Guard and Reserve, and without wearing out the active force?

SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, I saw the Associated Press headline that said, "Army: Troops to Stay in Iraq Until 2010." Schoomaker did not, of course, say anything like that, and it's unfortunate that stories go out mischaracterizing what people say.

The Army has the responsibility, at the direction of General Pace, and David Chu, and me, and the president, to look out over a period of time and do a series of sensitivities as to what if this, or what if that, and how might they do it, and to then undertake a planning process to see if they were asked to do this, what might they do. And that's what the Army does. General Schoomaker and the Army does not set force levels in Iraq. They're not the ones who determine how many will be there and until what year they'll be there. That's a function of General Casey and General Abizaid reporting to me and to the president.

 

- U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, DoD Press Briefing, October 11, 2006

source:  http://www.defenselink.mil/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=3755

(C) COPYRIGHT 2005, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC


Now I'd like to remind everybody of where that puts us in the overall process. The overall process of building the Iraqi security forces is a three-step process.

The first step: train and equip. You organize them into units. You give them the individual training, and you equip them and you put them in a position where they are ready to go out and conduct operations.

The second step: you make them better. And for the army, that means you put them in the lead. And our strategy is to put the Iraqis in the lead with our continued support so that they learn while doing rather than learn while watching us.

And the third step is you make them independent, and that's what you'll see going on here over the better part of the next 12 months. We've said all along that we wanted to give the Iraqis the capability to conduct independent counterinsurgency operations, and that is the program that we are currently on.

I would also say that we continue to make progress with the Ministry of Interior and police forces. Now, the police have a bad reputation in Iraq, and from my view, that's undeserved. Broadly, it's undeserved. There are units within the national police forces that deserve that reputation, and I think you just saw recently where one of those units was actually pulled off line by the minister of Interior for complicity in some sectarian violence.

With respect to the Ministry of Interior forces, two of the 18 Iraqi provinces now have already assumed Iraqi control in their province.

What that means is that the police forces in that province are capable of maintaining domestic order without routine coalition support, and in Muthanna province and Dhi Qar province that is happening. I would expect to see six or seven Iraqi provinces under provincial Iraqi control by the end of the year.

We are about 90 percent through building the police and border forces that we said we were going to help the Iraqis build, and we expect to complete that by the end of the year. We've also with the Iraqis started a national police reform program, where will take a whole Iraqi national police brigade offline, move them to a training base and give them three weeks of police training and loyalty training, so that we change not only the -- their abilities but the ethos of the unit. That will go on at about one brigade a month here until it's completed in the August timeframe.

Finally, we have -- because our goals here are to help the Iraqis over the long term, we have instituted -- helped them institute two professional development courses for junior and mid-level officers this year, and we will put it -- and help them put in place a course for senior officers and non-commissioned officers over the course of next year.

And lastly, as some of you have seen this, but the minister of Interior himself has instituted a ministry reform program. He announced it at the Council of Representatives. He emphasizes loyalty, accountability and operational performance. And as part of this program, his inspector general and his internal affairs divisions have already processed over 3,000 corruption cases -- are investigating 3,000 corruption cases and almost a thousand human rights cases, and he's taken action already in relieving over 1,200 officers, including a few general officers.

So lots of work to do with the police and still with the army, but the progress you're seeing there is heartening.

Now, another way to look at progress to help you get some perspective on this is take a look at what one of our divisions accomplishes in Iraq over the course of a deployment. In this case, I'll talk about the 101st Airborne Division, who was responsible for an area in northwest Iraq, was there from November 2005 until just this last September.

Over that period, they detained over 150 high-value individuals, each one of these a painstaking intelligence collection and development effort that led to the capture of an individual.

They secured over 200 polling sites for the December elections and allotted 1-1/2 million Iraqis to vote in those provinces.

They moved two Iraqi divisions, nine brigades and 35 battalions into the lead. They brought five provincial and 11 district police headquarters up to the second-highest level of preparation. They oversaw the training integration of over 32,000 police. They supported the development of two strategic infrastructure brigades with 14 battalions.

They supervised the building of a hundred police stations, 130 border forts and improved seven international ports of entry in the -- along the borders. And as a result of that progress with the Iraqi security forces, they were able to reduce a two-star headquarters, two coalition brigades, a total of 10,000 coalition forces, and they closed 25 bases over the course of that time.

Looking back, it's not insignificant what a division can get done by taking small steps every day. And that's what we say. We make progress in Iraq every day, small steps at a time.

So bottom line? Tough situation in Iraq. And I suspect that through Ramadan and over the next couple of months, it's going to continue to be difficult.

That said, we continue to make progress across the country every day. It's a tough business, but the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the coalition and their Iraqi colleagues are well up to the task, and they do magnificent job under difficult circumstances.

In closing, I think it's important for the American people to know what a magnificent job their servicemen and -women are doing in a very, very difficult environment. And we and then the Iraqis continue to move forward against very divisive forces that are trying to deny the Iraqi people the prosperous future that they so well deserve after 35 years under Saddam Hussein. And we will succeed in Iraq, but it will take patience, and it will take will.

 

- General George Casey, Commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq , DoD News Briefing, October 11, 2006

source:  http://www.defenselink.mil/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=3755

(C) COPYRIGHT 2005, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC


LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's top army commander said British troops in Iraq should be withdrawn soon because their presence was exacerbating security problems in the country, according to a British newspaper.

General Sir Richard Dannatt also told the Daily Mail in an interview published on Friday that Britain's Iraq venture was aggravating the security threat elsewhere in the world.

In unusually blunt comments for a serving senior officer, Dannatt said the troops should "get ... out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems."

Britain, Washington's main ally in Iraq, has around 7,000 soldiers deployed, mainly in the Shi'ite south.

The March 2003 U.S.-led invasion to oust former president Saddam Hussein has come under heavy criticism, as the civilian death-toll mounts and British and U.S. troops are increasingly in the firing line. Britain has lost 119 soldiers so-far.

Dannatt, who took over as Chief of the General Staff in August, suggested troops in Iraq had out-stayed their welcome.

"The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in. Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance. That is a fact. I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them."

Dannatt appeared to be suggesting the presence of British and U.S. troops in Iraq was fanning Islamic militancy -- something British Prime Minister Tony Blair has consistently denied.

POST-WAR FAILINGS

Putting himself directly at odds with Blair and President Bush, the general criticised the post-invasion planning by the U.S.-led coalition.

"I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning."

He continued: "The original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro-West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance within the Middle East. That was the hope, whether that was a sensible or naive hope history will judge. I don't think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition."

U.S.-led forces and the Iraqi government face a challenge both from insurgency and sectarian fighting between Shi'ites and Sunni Muslims that has brought the country close to civil war.

A spokeswoman at Blair's office issued a statement in response to the Dannatt interview that was echoed by the Ministry of Defense.

"It's important that people remember that we are in Iraq at the express wish of the democratically elected Iraqi government, to support them under the mandate of a U.N. resolution," the Downing Street statement said.

The opposition Conservatives' defense spokesman, however, welcomed the general's intervention, while expressing surprise at his bluntness.

"We need urgent clarification now from ministers about whether there has been any change in the government's position," Liam Fox said in a statement.

Blair has insisted that British troops must remain in Iraq until the Iraqi government is able to take control of security.

Bush, however, said on Wednesday he was open to adjusting the U.S. strategy in the country after two senior Republicans suggested there were alternatives to his policy, described by critics as "stay-the-course."

 

UK troops worsen problems in Iraq: army chief  - By Deborah Haynes, Reuters, October 12, 2006

source:  http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=2560666

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited


The reason I bring this up, these examples up, is that there's a political process that's going forward, and it's the combination of security and a political process that will enable the United States to achieve our objective, which is an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, defend itself, and be an ally in this war on terror.

Iraq's government -- Iraq's democratic government is just four months old. Yet, in the face of terrorist threats and sectarian violence, Iraq's new leaders are beginning to make tough choices. And as they make these tough decisions, we'll stand with them, we'll help them. It's in our interests that Iraq succeed.

I fully understand the American people are seeing unspeakable violence on their TV screens. These are tough times in Iraq. The enemy is doing everything within its power to destroy the government and to drive us out of the Middle East, starting with driving us out of Iraq before the mission is done. The stakes are high. As a matter of fact, they couldn't be higher. If we were to abandon that country before the Iraqis can defend their young democracy the terrorists would take control of Iraq and establish a new safe haven from which to launch new attacks on America. How do I know that would happen? Because that's what the enemy has told us would happen. That's what they have said. And as Commander-in-Chief of the United States military, and as a person working to secure this country, I take the words of the enemy very seriously, and so should the American people.

We can't tolerate a new terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, with large oil reserves that could be used to fund its radical ambitions, or used to inflict economic damage on the West. By helping the Iraqis build a democracy -- an Iraqi-style democracy -- we will deal a major blow to terrorists and extremists, we'll bring hope to a troubled region, and we'll make this country more secure.

 

- George W. Bush, Press Conference, October 11, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/10/20061011-5.html


WASHINGTON - The U.S. Army has plans to keep the current level of soldiers in Iraq through 2010, the top Army officer said Wednesday, a later date than Bush administration or Pentagon officials have mentioned thus far.

The Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, cautioned against reading too much into the planning, saying troops levels could be adjusted to actual conditions in Iraq. He said it is easier to hold back forces scheduled to go there than to prepare and deploy units at the last minute.

“This is not a prediction that things are going poorly or better,” Schoomaker told reporters. “It’s just that I have to have enough ammo in the magazine that I can continue to shoot as long as they want us to shoot.”

Even so, his comments were the latest acknowledgment by Pentagon officials that a significant withdrawal of troops from Iraq is not likely in the immediate future.

Currently there are 141,000 troops in Iraq, including 120,000 Army soldiers. Those soldiers are divided among 15 Army combat brigades plus other support units.

Comments as elections loom
Schoomaker’s comments come less than four weeks before congressional elections, in which the unpopular war in Iraq and the Bush administration’s policies there are a major campaign issue.

Last month, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid, said the military would likely maintain or possibly even increase the current force levels through next spring.

In recent months the Army has shown signs of strain, as Pentagon officials have had to extend the Iraq deployments of two brigades in order to bolster security in Baghdad and allow units heading into the country to have at least one year at home before redeploying.

Schoomaker said he has received no new guidance from commanders in Iraq as to when the U.S. will be able to begin reducing the number of troops there. Last year officials had hoped to be down to about 100,000 by the end of this year, but escalating violence and sectarian tensions have prompted military leaders to increase forces.

He also said the Army will have to rely on the National Guard and Reserves to maintain the current level of deployments. When asked about concerns that reserve units are struggling to get the training and equipment they need before going back to Iraq, Schoomaker said that no troops would be sent into war without needed resources.

 

- Army plans current Iraq troop levels until 2010, The Associated Press via MSNBC,  October 11, 2006

source:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15220816/

© 2006 The Associated Press


As terrorists wage their attacks, they know they cannot beat us in a stand-up fight; they never have. But they are absolutely convinced they can break the will of the American people. And the only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission, but the world can have confidence in the resolve of the United States. We will stand by our friends. We will help Iraqis build a nation that is free, secure, and able to defend itself. We will confront our enemies on this and every other front in the war on terror. And with good allies at our side, we will prevail.

...

The mission of the United States and our coalition will continue to change as necessary, as it has from the beginning. And all Americans can be certain -- any decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground and the judgment of our commanders, not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.

...

We are a democracy defended by volunteers, who deserve all the tools and all the support we can possibly provide. Americans appreciate our fellow citizens who go out on long deployments and endure the hardship of separation from home and family. We care about those who have returned with injuries and who face a hard road ahead. And our nation grieves for the brave men and women whose lives have ended in freedom's cause. No one can take away the sorrow that has come to the families of the fallen. We can only say, with complete certainty, that these Americans served in a noble and a necessary cause, and we will honor their memory forever.  We will honor their sacrifice by completing the mission.

 

U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Remarks at a Rally for the Troops, October 4, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/10/20061004-3.html


It's hard work. But it's necessary work. Iraq is a central part on the war on terror, and we have a plan for victory there. We have a security plan that will chase down those extremists and radicals who would like to do us harm, and enable the Iraqis to defend themselves. We have a political strategy, and that is to stand squarely with the 12 million people who said loud and clear: We want to be free.

You know, it must seem like an eternity to you, when you think about those elections last December. It certainly does to me, in some ways. Ultimately, when this chapter of history will be written, however, it's going to be a comma -- the Iraqis voted, comma, and the United States of America understood that Iraq was a central front in the war on terror and helped this young democracy flourish so that a generation of Americans wouldn't have to worry about the extremists emanating from that country to hurt the American people.

The stakes are high. The Democrats are the party of cut and run. Ours is a party that has got a clear vision and says we will give our commanders and troops the support necessary to achieve that victory in Iraq. We will stay in Iraq, we will fight in Iraq, and we will win in Iraq.

Our strategy is to stay on the offense, and we will do that. You just got to know there's some fine, fine, brave men and women in uniform, and some not in uniform in the intelligence services, doing everything they can to find the enemy every single day. It's hard to plot and plan when you're hiding in a cave and are on the run. And that's our strategy, and that's the way we're going to keep it.

 

- George W. Bush, Remarks by the President at Richard Pombo for Congress Breakfast, October 3, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/10/20061003-3.html


RUMSFELD:  ...And I guess the short answer is that insurgencies are historically very difficult things. They take time. They take anywhere from 5, 8,10,12,15 years.

And go back to the Philippines or Algeria or any number of other countries. The United States does know how to deal with them, but, there isn't a silver bullet. There's not something that you do that ends it. Not a single big battle and it takes the development of that government because in that last analysis that insurgency is going to be dealt with in Iraq by the Iraqi people, by the success of that government and over time it isn't going to be dealt with by foreigners in my view.

And our task is to see that they have sufficient security forces that they can in fact achieve their goal of a, of a reasonably stable environment so that they can move forward as a country.

...

SESNO: You have talked about this as a long war, that's going to go on possibly as long as the Cold War, that could be decades. America could find itself in Iraq for years to come.

RUMSFELD: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. The long war is not Iraq.

SESNO: No, I know that.

RUMSFELD: Just a minute. And it's not keeping Americans in Iraq for a long time. There is no one with that intention.

 

- Frank Sesno's interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, CNN, September 30, 2006

source:  http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/09/30/rumsfeld.transcript/index.html

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.


The only way to protect our citizens at home is to go on the offense against the enemy across the world. When terrorists spend their days working to avoid capture, they are less able to plot, plan, and execute new attacks on our people. So we will remain on the offense until the terrorists are defeated and this fight is won.

In my recent speeches, I've said we are in the early hours of a long struggle for civilization, and that our safety depends on the outcome of the battle in Iraq. The National Intelligence Estimate declares "perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere." It also says that "Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."

Withdrawing from Iraq before the enemy is defeated would embolden the terrorists. It would help them find new recruits to carry out even more destructive attacks on our Nation, and it would give the terrorists a new sanctuary in the heart of the Middle East, with huge oil riches to fund their ambitions. America must not allow this to happen. We are a Nation that keeps its commitments to those who long for liberty and want to live in peace. We will stand with the nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for their freedom, and we will help them fight and defeat the terrorists there, so we do not have to face them here at home.

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, September 30, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060930.html


TIRANA, Sept. 27 (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Wednesday that American operations in Iraq would end when Iraqi security forces were able to take over the job, but he would not estimate when that might be.

"Our view has been that it's for the Iraqi people to provide for their government, for the Iraqi people to provide for their own security, and our task has been to assist them during this period, the early days of their free system, so they can develop the security forces capable of providing for security in the country," he told reporters in the Albanian capital Tirana.

He said Iraqi security forces were making progress and beginning to take on additional responsibilities. But he would not estimate when the transfer of authority for security in all provinces could happen.

"One can't predict with perfect certainty the pace at which that will happen," Rumsfeld said. "We do know it is happening."

"Trying to set a specific date just isn't manageable," he said, speaking after a meeting of southeast European defense ministers.

Unrelenting violence in Iraq has frustrated the Pentagon's efforts to begin bringing home the 142,000 U.S. troops there. It is also a critical campaign issue in the United States ahead of November elections that will determine control of Congress.

- Rumsfeld-unclear when Iraq troops can replace U.S., By Kristin Roberts, Reuters, September 27, 2006

source:  http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L27699613.htm

© 2006 Reuters Limited


(CNN) -- Seventy-one percent of Iraqis responding to a new survey favor a commitment by U.S.-led forces in Iraq to withdraw in a year.

The majority of respondents to the University of Maryland poll said that "they would like the Iraqi government to ask for U.S.-led forces to be withdrawn from Iraq within a year or less," according to the survey's summary.

"Given four options, 37 percent take the position that they would like U.S.-led forces withdrawn 'within six months,' while another 34 percent opt for 'gradually withdraw(ing) U.S.-led forces according to a one-year timeline.' (Watch why one analyst says U.S. strategy is flawed -- 1:45)

"Twenty percent favor a two-year timeline and just 9 percent favor 'only reduc(ing) U.S.-led forces as the security situation improves in Iraq.'"

- Poll: Most Iraqis favor U.S. pullout in a year, CNN, September 27, 2006

source:  http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/09/27/iraq.poll/index.html

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.


washingtonpost.com

Most Iraqis Favor Immediate U.S. Pullout, Polls Show
Leaders' Views Out of Step With Public
 

Breakdown of Iraqi Responses
A majority of Iraqis across the country say they want U.S.-led coalition forces to leave immediately, according to a new poll conducted by the U.S. State Department.
Breakdown of Iraqi Responses
 
SOURCE: State Department | The Washington Post - September 27, 2006

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 27, 2006; A22

BAGHDAD, Sept. 26 -- A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.

In Baghdad, for example, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout, according to State Department polling results obtained by The Washington Post.

Another new poll, scheduled to be released on Wednesday by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that 71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believed that the U.S. government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled saying the United States intends keep permanent military bases in the country.

The stark assessments, among the most negative attitudes toward U.S.-led forces since they invaded Iraq in 2003, contrast sharply with views expressed by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Last week at the United Nations, President Jalal Talabani said coalition troops should remain in the country until Iraqi security forces are "capable of putting an end to terrorism and maintaining stability and security."

"Only then will it be possible to talk about a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq," he said.

Recent polls show many Iraqis in nearly every part of the country disagree.

"Majorities in all regions except Kurdish areas state that the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) should withdraw immediately, adding that the MNF-I's departure would make them feel safer and decrease violence," concludes the 20-page State Department report, titled "Iraq Civil War Fears Remain High in Sunni and Mixed Areas." The report was based on 1,870 face-to-face interviews conducted from late June to early July.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes poll, which was conducted over the first three days of September for WorldPublicOpinion.org, found that support among Sunni Muslims for a withdrawal of all U.S.-led forces within six months dropped to 57 percent in September from 83 percent in January.

"There is a kind of softening of Sunni attitudes toward the U.S.," said Steven Kull, director of PIPA and editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org. "But you can't go so far as to say the majority of Sunnis don't want the U.S. out. They do. They're just not quite in the same hurry as they were before."

The PIPA poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percent, was carried out by Iraqis in all 18 provinces who conducted interviews with more than 1,000 randomly selected Iraqis in their homes.

Using complex sampling methods based on data from Iraq's Planning Ministry, the pollsters selected streets on which to conduct interviews. They then contacted every third house on the left side of the road. When they selected a home, the interviewers then collected the names and birth dates of everyone who lived there and polled the person with the most recent birthday.

Matthew Warshaw, a senior research manager at D3 Systems, which helped conduct the poll, said he didn't think Iraqis were any less likely to share their true opinions with pollsters than Americans. "It's a concern you run up against in Iowa or in Iraq," he said. "But for the most part we're asking questions that people want to give answers to. People want to have their voice heard."

The greatest risk, he said, was the safety of the interviewers. Two pollsters for another Iraqi firm were recently killed because of their work.

The State Department report did not give a detailed methodology for its poll, which it said was carried out by an unnamed Iraqi polling firm. Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said he could not comment on the public opinion surveys.

The director of another Iraqi polling firm, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being killed, said public opinion surveys he conducted last month showed that 80 percent of Iraqis who were questioned favored an immediate withdrawal. Eight-five percent of Sunnis in that poll supported an immediate withdrawal, a number virtually unchanged in the past two years, except for the two months after the Samarra bombing, when the number fell to about 70 percent, the poll director said.

"The very fact that there is such a low support for American forces has to do with the American failure to do basically anything for Iraqis," said Mansoor Moaddel, a professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University, who commissioned a poll earlier this year that also found widespread support for a withdrawal. "It's part of human nature. People respect authority and power. But the U.S. so far has been unable to establish any real authority."

Interviews with two dozen Baghdad residents in recent weeks suggest one central cause for Iraqi distrust of the Americans: They believe the U.S. government has deliberately thrown the country into chaos.

The most common theory heard on the streets of Baghdad is that the American military is creating a civil war to create an excuse to keep its forces here.

"Do you really think it's possible that America -- the greatest country in the world -- cannot manage a small country like this?" Mohammad Ali, 42, an unemployed construction worker, said as he sat in his friend's electronics shop on a recent afternoon. "No! They have not made any mistakes. They brought people here to destroy Iraq, not to build Iraq."

As he drew on a cigarette and two other men in the store nodded in agreement, Ali said the U.S. government was purposely depriving the Iraqi people of electricity, water, gasoline and security, to name just some of the things that most people in this country often lack.

"They could fix everything in one hour if they wanted!" he said, jabbing his finger in the air for emphasis.

Mohammed Kadhem al-Dulaimi, 54, a Sunni Arab who used to be a professional soccer player, said he thought the United States was creating chaos in the country as a pretext to stay in Iraq as long as it has stayed in Germany.

"All bad things that are happening in Iraq are just because of the Americans," he said, sipping a tiny cup of sweet tea in a cafe. "When should they leave? As soon as possible. Every Iraqi will tell you this."

Many Iraqi political leaders, on the other hand, have been begging the Americans to stay, especially since the February bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra, which touched off the current round of sectarian reprisal killings between Sunnis and Shiites.

The most dramatic about-face came from Sunni leaders, initially some of the staunchest opponents to the U.S. occupation, who said coalition forces were the only buffer preventing Shiite militias from slaughtering Sunnis.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the outspoken Sunni speaker of parliament who this summer said that "the U.S. occupation is the work of butchers," now supports the U.S. military staying in Iraq for as long as a decade.

"Don't let them go before they have corrected what they have done," he said in an interview this month. "They should stay for four years. This is the minimum. Maybe 10 years."

Particularly in mixed neighborhoods here in the capital, some Sunnis say the departure of U.S. forces could trigger a genocide. Hameed al-Kassi, 24, a recent college graduate who lives in the Yarmouk district of Baghdad, worried that rampages by Shiite militias could cause "maybe 60 to 70 percent of the Sunnis to be killed, even the women, old and the young."

"There will be lakes of blood," Kassi said. "Of course we want the Americans to leave, but if they do, it will be a great disaster for us."

In a barbershop in the capital's Karrada district Tuesday afternoon, a group of men discussed some of the paradoxical Iraqi opinions of coalition troops. They recognized that the departure of U.S.-led forces could trigger more violence, and yet they harbored deep-rooted anger toward the Americans.

"I really don't like the Americans who patrol on the street. They should all go away," said a young boy as he swept up hair on the shop's floor. "But I do like the one who guards my church. He should stay!"

Sitting in a neon-orange chair as he waited for a haircut, Firas Adnan, a 27-year-old music student, said: "I really don't know what I want. If the Americans leave right now, there is going to be a massacre in Iraq. But if they don't leave, there will be more problems. From my point of view, though, it would be better for them to go out today than tomorrow."

He paused for a moment, then said, "We just want to go back and live like we did before."

 

By Amit R. Paley ,Washington Post, September 26, 2006

source:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/26/AR2006092601721.html

© 2006 The Washington Post Company


In my meeting with President Talabani, I told him that America will continue to support Iraq's democratic government as it makes the tough decisions necessary to bring security and prosperity to the Iraqi people. I assured President Talabani that America will not abandon the Iraqi people in their struggle to defeat the terrorists and build a free society in the heart of the Middle East.

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, September 23, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060923.html


KING: You are a great hero of the Kurdish people, a long-time fellow of Saddam Hussein who had a death sentence on you for years. But, do you see any end to this?

TALABANI: Well, I'm proud that I could participate in the struggle of our people and the Kurds and Iraqis for overthrowing the worst kind of dictatorship and I'm grateful to the Americans, American people, army who came to liberate us from such a kind of dictatorship.

KING: But how long does it last?

TALABANI: Well, it -- we -- I spend all my life, when I'm a child in this liberation, in struggle, I spend more than 40 years in the mountains of Kurdistan fighting against all kind of dictatorships in Iraq.

KING: But do you ever see this, 40 years is a long time, but how long -- how long do you think the Americans will be there?

TALABANI: Americans, I will say as much as necessary for securing Iraq and preventing foreign interference in the internal affairs. I think it's a matter of years, especially now they help us to deal with our armed forces, now 10 division Iraqi forces are well- trained and ready to defend the country against terrorists. But we are -- we need to rivet our forces.

KING: Are you aware, Mr. President, of the dissatisfaction, much dissatisfaction in the United States about the war?

TALABANI: Yes, we are sometimes listening to radio and hearing from the power of public opinion that now the American people are worried about what's going on in Iraq.

KING: Do you worry about a change of administrations that might?

TALABANI: No. I think all -- any kind of American administration will be realistic and will understand that the failure in Iraq, meaning the failure of democracy and the success of terrorism in Arab words.

 

- Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Interview with Larry King, September 20, 2006

source:  http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0609/20/lkl.01.html

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.


There is likely to be no reduction in American forces in Iraq until at least spring 2007, and troop levels are expected to remain the same until then, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East said Tuesday.

About 147,000 U.S. troops are in the Middle East nation.

Army Gen. John Abizaid said the troop strength is needed because of the continuing sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad.

The military had hoped to bring two Army brigades, or about 10,000 troops, back to the United States, but that appears to be on hold.

The U.S. military shifted its focus recently from Anbar province, a Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad, to the capital, which has been beset by suicides bombings and roadside attacks.

Abizaid said troop strength will be re-evaluated based on how successful the military is in reining in violence in Baghdad.

 

- CNN Article , September 20, 2006

source:  http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/09/20/iraq.main/index.html

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 CNN


Q ... Mr. President, you've often used the phrase "stand up, stand down," to describe your policy when it comes to troop withdrawals from Iraq -- as Iraqi troops are trained and take over the fight, American troops will come home. The Pentagon now says they've trained 294,000 Iraqi troops and expect to complete their program of training 325,000 by the end of the year, but American troops aren't coming home, and there are more there now than there were previously. Is the goal post moving, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: No, no. The enemy is changing tactics, and we're adapting. That's what's happening. I asked General Casey today, have you got what you need? He said, yes, I've got what I need.

We all want the troops to come home as quickly as possible. But they'll be coming home when our commanders say the Iraqi government is capable of defending itself and sustaining itself and is governing itself. And, you know, I was hoping we would have -- be able to -- hopefully, Casey would come and say, you know, Mr. President, there's a chance to have fewer troops there. It looked like that might be the case -- until the violence started rising in Baghdad, and it spiked in June and July, as you know -- or increased in June and July.

And so they've got a plan now, they've adapted. The enemy moves; we'll help the Iraqis move. So they're building a berm around the city to make it harder for people to come in with explosive devices, for example. They're working different neighborhoods inside of Baghdad to collect guns and bring people to detention. They've got a "clear, build and hold" strategy.

The reason why there are not fewer troops there, but are more -- you're right, it's gone from 135,000 to about 147,000, I think, or 140,000 something troops is because George Casey felt he needed them to help the Iraqis achieve their objective.

And that's the way I will continue to conduct the war. I'll listen to generals. Maybe it's not the politically expedient thing to do, is to increase troops coming into an election, but we just can't -- you can't make decisions based upon politics about how to win a war. And the fundamental question you have to ask -- and Martha knows what I'm about to say -- is: Can the President trust his commanders on the ground to tell him what is necessary? That's really one of the questions.

In other words, if you say, I'm going to rely upon their judgment, the next question is, how good is their judgment; or is my judgment good enough to figure out whether or not they know what they're doing? And I'm going to tell you I've got great confidence in General John Abizaid and General George Casey. These are extraordinary men who understand the difficulties of the task, and understand there is a delicate relationship between self-sufficiency on the Iraqis' part, and U.S. presence.

And this is not a science, but an art form in a way, to try to make sure that a unity government is able to defend itself, and at the same time not be totally reliant upon coalition forces to do the job for them. And the issue is complicated by the fact that there are still al Qaeda or Saddam remnants or militias that are still violent. And so to answer your question, the policy still holds. The "stand up, stand down" still holds, and so does the policy of me listening to our commanders to give me the judgment necessary for troop levels.

- George W. Bush, Press Conference, September 15, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060915-2.html


...And now the challenge is to help the Iraqi people build a democracy that fulfills the dreams of the nearly 12 million Iraqis who came out to vote in free elections last December.

Al Qaeda and other extremists from across the world have come to Iraq to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East. They have joined the remnants of Saddam's regime and other armed groups to foment sectarian violence and drive us out. Our enemies in Iraq are tough and they are committed -- but so are Iraqi and coalition forces. We're adapting to stay ahead of the enemy, and we are carrying out a clear plan to ensure that a democratic Iraq succeeds.

We're training Iraqi troops so they can defend their nation. We're helping Iraq's unity government grow in strength and serve its people. We will not leave until this work is done. Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad. Osama bin Laden calls this fight "the Third World War" -- and he says that victory for the terrorists in Iraq will mean America's "defeat and disgrace forever." If we yield Iraq to men like bin Laden, our enemies will be emboldened; they will gain a new safe haven; they will use Iraq's resources to fuel their extremist movement. We will not allow this to happen. America will stay in the fight. Iraq will be a free nation, and a strong ally in the war on terror.

We can be confident that our coalition will succeed because the Iraqi people have been steadfast in the face of unspeakable violence. And we can be confident in victory because of the skill and resolve of America's Armed Forces. Every one of our troops is a volunteer, and since the attacks of September the 11th, more than 1.6 million Americans have stepped forward to put on our nation's uniform. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and other fronts in the war on terror, the men and women of our military are making great sacrifices to keep us safe. Some have suffered terrible injuries -- and nearly 3,000 have given their lives. America cherishes their memory. We pray for their families. And we will never back down from the work they have begun.

- George W. Bush, President's Address to the Nation, September 11, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060911-3.html


Q Mr. Vice President, the President of the United States said Hezbollah has killed more Americans than any other terrorist organization than al Qaeda. The largest demonstration in favor of Hezbollah was in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis on the street supporting Hezbollah. I asked the Foreign Minister of Iraq, is Hezbollah a terrorist organization? He said I can't make that judgment. The parliament, the Speaker of the Parliament, "Dennis Hastert of Iraq, Tip O'Neill of Iraq," said it was, the Jews that were causing the violence. What are we creating in Iraq? I ask you again, what is victory? What is staying the course? What is winning?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Tim, victory in Iraq will be a situation in which there is a viable government, representative of the people of Iraq elected under their constitution. We are part way there. It will be an Iraq that is not a threat to the United States in terms of being a safe haven for terrorists. It will be an Iraq where al Qaeda has been pretty well eliminated, where, in fact, the Iraqis are able to govern and deal with the difficult political situations obviously that exist inside Iraq given their history. Those are all things that need to happen.

But I think we are well under way to do it...

U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Interview of the Vice President by Tim Russert, NBC News, Meet the Press, September 10, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060910.html


These evil men know that a fundamental threat to their aspirations is a democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. They know that given a choice, the Iraqi people will never choose to live in the totalitarian state the extremists hope to establish. And that is why we must not, and we will not, give the enemy victory in Iraq by deserting the Iraqi people.

- George W. Bush, President Discusses Global War on Terror, September 5, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060905-4.html


A vital part of our strategy to defeat the terrorists is to help establish a democratic Iraq, which will be a beacon of liberty in the region and an ally in the global war on terror. The terrorists understand the threat a democratic Iraq poses to their cause, so they've been fighting a bloody campaign of sectarian violence, which they hope will plunge that country into a civil war. Our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not descended into a civil war. They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country. America will stand with the Iraqi people as they protect their new freedom -- and build a democracy that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.

Working side-by-side with Iraqi forces, we recently launched a major new campaign to end the security crisis in Baghdad. This operation is still in its early stages, yet the initial results are encouraging. The people of Baghdad are seeing their security forces in the streets, dealing a blow to criminals and terrorists. According to one military report, a Sunni man in a diverse Baghdad neighborhood said this about the Shia soldiers on patrol: "Their image has changed. Now you feel they are there to protect you." Over the coming weeks and months, the operation will expand throughout Baghdad -- until Iraq's democratic government is in full control of the capital. This work is difficult and dangerous, but Iraqi forces are determined to succeed -- and America is determined to help them.

Here at home, some politicians say that our best option is to pull out of Iraq, regardless of the situation on the ground. Many of these people are sincere and patriotic -- but they could not be more wrong. If America were to pull out before Iraq can defend itself, the consequences would be disastrous. We would be handing Iraq over to the terrorists, giving them a base of operations and huge oil riches to fund their ambitions. And we know exactly where those ambitions lead. If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities. The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq, so America will not leave until victory is achieved.

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, September 2, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060902.html


America has a clear strategy to help the Iraqi people protect their new freedom, and build a democracy that can govern itself, and sustain itself, and defend itself. On the political side, we're working closely with Prime Minister Maliki to strengthen Iraq's unity government and develop -- and to deliver better services to the Iraqi people. This is a crucial moment for the new Iraqi government; its leaders understand the challenge. They believe that now is the time to hammer out compromises on Iraq's most contentious issues.

I've been clear with each Iraqi leader I meet: America is a patient nation, and Iraq can count on our partnership, as long as the new government continues to make the hard decisions necessary to advance a unified, democratic and peaceful Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki has shown courage in laying out an agenda to do just that -- and he can count on an ally, the United States of America, to help him promote this agenda.

On the security side, we're refining our tactics to meet the threats on the ground. I've given our commanders in Iraq all the flexibility they need to make adjustments necessary to stay on the offense and defeat the enemies of freedom. We've deployed Special Operation forces to kill or capture terrorists operating in Iraq. Zarqawi found out what they can do. We continue to train Iraqi police forces to defend their own nation. We've handed over security responsibility for a southern province to Iraqi forces. Five of Iraq's 10 army divisions are now taking the lead in their areas of operation. The Iraqi security forces are determined; they're becoming more capable; and together, we will defeat the enemies of a free Iraq.

Recently, we also launched a major new campaign to end the security crisis in Baghdad. Side by side, Iraqi and American forces are conducting operations in the city's most violent areas to disrupt al Qaeda, to capture enemy fighters, crack down on IED makers, and break up the death squads. These forces are helping Iraq's national police force undergo retraining to better enforce law in Baghdad. And these forces are supporting the Iraqi government as it provides reconstruction assistance.

The Baghdad Security Plan is still in its early stages. We cannot expect immediate success. Yet, the initial results are encouraging. According to one military report, a Sunni man in a diverse Baghdad neighborhood said this about the Shia soldiers on patrol: "Their image has changed. Now you feel they're there to protect you." Over the coming weeks and months, the operation will expand throughout Baghdad. until Iraq's democratic government is in full control of its capital. The work is difficult and dangerous, but the Iraqi government and their forces are determined to reclaim their country. And the United States is determined to help them succeed.

Here at home we have a choice to make about Iraq. Some politicians look at our efforts in Iraq and see a diversion from the war on terror. That would come as news to Osama bin Laden, who proclaimed that the "third world war is raging" in Iraq. It would come as news to the number two man of al Qaeda, Zawahiri, who has called the struggle in Iraq, quote, "the place for the greatest battle." It would come as news to the terrorists from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and other countries, who have to come to Iraq to fight the rise of democracy.

It's hard to believe that these terrorists would make long journeys across dangerous borders, endure heavy fighting, or blow themselves up in the streets of Baghdad, for a so-called "diversion." Some Americans didn't support my decision to remove Saddam Hussein; many are frustrated with the level of violence. But we should all agree that the battle for Iraq is now central to the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We will not allow the terrorists to dictate the future of this century -- so we will defeat them in Iraq.

Still, there are some in our country who insist that the best option in Iraq is to pull out, regardless of the situation on the ground. Many of these folks are sincere and they're patriotic, but they could be -- they could not be more wrong. If America were to pull out before Iraq can defend itself, the consequences would be absolutely predictable -- and absolutely disastrous. We would be handing Iraq over to our worst enemies -- Saddam's former henchmen, armed groups with ties to Iran, and al Qaeda terrorists from all over the world who would suddenly have a base of operations far more valuable than Afghanistan under the Taliban. They would have a new sanctuary to recruit and train terrorists at the heart of the Middle East, with huge oil riches to fund their ambitions. And we know exactly where those ambitions lead. If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities.

We can decide to stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq and other parts of the world, but they will not decide to stop fighting us. General John Abizaid, our top commander in the Middle East region, recently put it this way: "If we leave, they will follow us." And he is right. The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq. So the United States of America will not leave until victory is achieved.

Victory in Iraq will be difficult and it will require more sacrifice. The fighting there can be as fierce as it was at Omaha Beach or Guadalcanal. And victory is as important as it was in those earlier battles. Victory in Iraq will result in a democracy that is a friend of America and an ally in the war on terror. Victory in Iraq will be a crushing defeat for our enemies, who have staked so much on the battle there. Victory in Iraq will honor the sacrifice of the brave Americans who have given their lives. And victory in Iraq would be a powerful triumph in the ideological struggle of the 21st century. From Damascus to Tehran, people will look to a democratic Iraq as inspiration that freedom can succeed in the Middle East, and as evidence that the side of freedom is the winning side. This is a pivotal moment for the Middle East. The world is watching -- and in Iraq and beyond, the forces of freedom will prevail.

- George W. Bush, President Bush Addresses American Legion National Convention, August 31, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/08/20060831-1.html


The top U.S. general in Iraq said Wednesday he believes Iraqi forces can take over security with little coalition support within a year to 18 months.

"I don't have a date, but I can see over the next 12 to 18 months, the Iraqi security forces progressing to a point where they can take on the security responsibilities for the country, with very little coalition support," Gen. George Casey said in Baghdad.

That takeover would not mean U.S. troops leaving immediately. It is part of a U.S. military plan to hand over responsibilities, move into large bases and provide support while Iraqis take the lead. A U.S. drawdown would start after that occurred.

The coalition has been training and equipping Iraqi forces, and Casey said they are now "75 percent" along the path of being able to operate independently.

Although the United States has made its strategy public, U.S. officials rarely mention dates or details.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already said that Iraqi army and police plan to take over security for all of Iraq's provinces within the next 18 months.

"We have been on a three-step process to help build the Iraqi security forces," Casey told a small group of reporters.

He said the first was training and equipping the Iraqi security forces, the second was to "put them in the lead, still with our support."

"And when they're in the lead, they're responsible for the areas, and we still help them. That process is almost 75 percent complete," he said.

Casey added that the last step "is get them to the stage where they independently provide security in Iraq."

That, according to Casey, would include building logistics, intelligence, medical support and other elements that "that can support and sustain the armed forces in place for a longer period of time."

He said Iraqi forces were about "75 percent of the way toward the second step, toward completing the second step. There's still more work to do for them to become independent."

He added that "they're going to continue to get better within the next 12 to 18 months. And they will still, during that process, ... have our support and our substantial presence here to assist them."

Asked if Iraqi forces were capable of taking over after the 12 to 18 months, allowing U.S.-led Coalition forces to withdraw, Casey said that depended on the situation on the ground.

"I'm not sure yet," Casey said of the Iraqi security capability. "And we'll adjust that as we go. But a lot of that, in fact the future coalition presence, 12-18 months from now, is going to be decided by the Iraqi government."


- General: Iraqi security needs 12-18 mos. By ELENA BECATOROS, Associated Press Writer
Wed Aug 30, 1:03 PM ET

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

source:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060830/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_casey


The terrorists have made Iraq the central front in this war. And we wage this fight with good allies at our side, including an Iraqi Security Force growing in size and ability. We'll continue to train the Iraqi forces so they can defend their own country and make it a source of stability in an otherwise troubled region. When it comes to our own troop levels, the President will listen to the recommendations of commanders on the ground. And he will make the call based on what is needed for victory, not according to the polls, and not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.

In our own country, we take democratic values seriously -- so we always have a vigorous debate on the issues. That's part of the greatness of America; we wouldn't have it any other way. But there is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism. We have only two options in Iraq -- victory or defeat. And I want you to know, as members of the United States military, that the American people do not support a policy of retreat or defeat. We want to complete the mission. We want to get it done right. And we want to return with honor.

...

U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Remarks at a Rally for the Troops at Offutt Air Force Base, August 29, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/08/20060829-4.html


 ... And of course, in Iraq, we see the same struggle being played out daily, as terrorists and sectarian militias seek to strangle the promise of peace and unity and democracy.

I know that many of you here today have friends and family members who are serving in Iraq. Some of you have served there yourselves. We've all seen stories about Iraq, some positive and inspiring; others, indeed many, that are disheartening and frustrating to hear. I know that Americans are concerned about the course and the future of Iraq. On the one hand, Americans want desperately to succeed in Iraq. They want to do whatever it takes to achieve victory.

But on the other hand, there are unsettling questions. Is success possible? Is it really worth the effort? Do the Iraqi people really want to live together in peace and freedom, the peace and freedom for which our troops have sacrificed so much. Or do they desire a darker path, somehow, of violence?

Ladies and Gentlemen: I am here today to tell you that I am confident that Iraq, Iraqis, and America will succeed.

When you speak with our fellow citizens who are serving in Iraq and when you ask them why they fight, why they are optimistic and inspired to conduct their mission, I am sure that most of them give you the same answer that I hear from troops when I speak to them, and from members of our diplomatic corps, and other civilians who are there risking their lives in Iraq. Most of these men and women say that what motivates them to do their job every day is the overwhelming hope that they witness in the Iraqi people and the tremendous sacrifices that Iraqis themselves are bearing to realize that hope.

Most Iraqis want what all people want. They want freedom from coercion and oppression, safety from violence and injustice, opportunities for a better life for themselves and for their children. They what a future of peace and moderation for their country, as do the leaders they freely elected in December, who are now serving at great personal risk in Iraq’s national unity government.

To a small number of extremists in Iraq, however, this vision of a moderate, democratic future is an existential threat, because it is one in which their ideology of sectarian hatred will find no support. So these terrorists and these militias resort to unthinkable acts of brutality to drag the country into civil strife and to destroy the hopes of their fellow Iraqis. They target innocent civilians making a religious pilgrimage. They murder people with a certain first name, because it signifies a sectarian difference. And they lay bombs on soccer fields to murder young children, because games like soccer are deemed "idolatrous."

Though the risks to their lives are clear and present, though, Iraqis of every sect and every ethnicity, carried forward in their hope -- and they are pulling together to make a new Iraq succeed. Despite rocket attacks and campaigns of terror, they are building water treatment facilities and laying new roads, and preparing to open classrooms for the start of a new school year. And of course, despite intimidation and assassination and the murder of their friends and loved ones, Iraqis volunteer by the tens of thousands for the new Iraqi Army. And when they find themselves in a fight against terrorists and militias, I am told by our military people that they do not cower and run; they join the battle and they fight until that battle is won.

One American soldier in Iraq, -- Army Major Michael Jason, tells the story of one Iraqi who would wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning, each morning. for months, just to begin the long, dangerous walk to Baghdad to stand in line for an application to the new Iraqi Army. And when he was finally cleared to serve, when he was asked one day why he would risk his life and that of his family to join up, his response was, "I am a soldier and my country needs me." All of you understand that statement and that desire because you have felt it yourselves.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is that desire for freedom; it is that belief in country and in family that unites us with people in Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East who simply want a better future.

Now in Iraq, we are helping them with a strategy of "clear, hold, and build." It means that with Iraqi forces in the lead and with our strong support, areas are cleared from terrorists and militia control. And this difficult, yet promising work that you are witnessing in Baghdad right now is a part of that effort.

Second, we are helping the Iraqi government to hold the areas we have cleared together; most importantly, by supporting Prime Minister Al-Maliki’s plan for national reconciliation. That plan got a significant boost over the weekend when 100 of Iraq’s tribal leaders signed a "pact of honor," declaring that they would do what they could to stop the sectarian killings that have plagued Iraq.

Finally, we are helping the government and the people of Iraq to rebuild their country. The keystone of this effort is a compact which will rally new international support for Iraqi reconstruction as the Iraqi government proceeds with democratic and political reform.

Ladies and gentlemen, this strategy can succeed and it will succeed, but if we quit before the job is done, the cost of failure will be severe; indeed, immeasurable. If we abandon the Iraqi people, before their government is strong enough to secure the country, then we will show reformers across the region that America cannot be trusted to keep its word. We will embolden extremist enemies of moderation and of democratic reform. We will leave the makings of a failed state in Iraq, like that one in Afghanistan in the 1990s, which became the base for al-Qaida and the launching pad for the September 11th hijackers. And we should not assume for one minute that those terrorists will not continue to come after the American homeland. That is why President Bush calls Iraq a central front in the war on terror.

I know that the struggle before us sometimes seems daunting. I know. I feel it. I see it in the challenged eyes of Americans across this great country. But I know too that America has a proud tradition of struggling with others and helping them to secure their freedom. This tradition is embodied in the members of the American Legion and I know many of you, like me, can also remember extraordinary times in history when American leadership and American perseverance and American resolve were required. We stood strong and we must stand strong now.

...

I submit to you that if we stay strong, if we stay committed, if we remain true to our values, that one day, people will look back and they will say, "Who could ever have doubted that of course, the universal values of democracy and freedom would take hold in the Middle East?" And they will say, "Who could have ever doubted that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan would be free?" And they will look back and they will say, "Thank God that America stayed the course."

- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Remarks at the 88th Annual American Legion Convention, August 29, 2006

source:  http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/71636.htm


"But this is a new Iraq, and inherited from the previous regime who left unemployment and destruction," said [Iraqi Prime minister] al-Maliki, who won power in December's elections.

Asked when coalition troops might leave, the Iraqi leader was equivocal.

"It could be a year or less, or a few months," he said. "This has to do with the -- with our success of the democratic -- or the political process in Iraq, and to have the security agencies to protect this process."

- CNN news article, August 28, 2006

source:  http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/08/28/iraq.main/index.html

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.


The United States of America must understand it's in our interests that we help this democracy succeed. As a matter of fact, it's in our interests that we help reformers across the Middle East achieve their objectives. This is the fundamental challenge of the 21st century. A failed Iraq would make America less secure. A failed Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will provide safe haven for terrorists and extremists. It will embolden those who are trying to thwart the ambitions of reformers. In this case, it would give the terrorists and extremists an additional tool besides safe haven, and that is revenues from oil sales.

You know, it's an interesting debate we're having in America about how we ought to handle Iraq. There's a lot of people -- good, decent people, saying, withdraw now. They're absolutely wrong. It would be a huge mistake for this country. If you think problems are tough now, imagine what it would be like if the United States leaves before this government has a chance to defend herself, govern herself, and listen to the -- and answer to the will of the people.

...

 The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve their objectives and their dreams, which is a democratic society. That's the strategy. The tactics -- now, either you say, yes, its important we stay there and get it done, or we leave. We're not leaving, so long as I'm the President. That would be a huge mistake. It would send an unbelievably terrible signal to reformers across the region. It would say we've abandoned our desire to change the conditions that create terror. It would give the terrorists a safe haven from which to launch attacks. It would embolden Iran. It would embolden extremists.

No, we're not leaving. The strategic objective is to help this government succeed. That's the strategic -- and not only to help the government -- the reformers in Iraq succeed, but to help the reformers across the region succeed to fight off the elements of extremism. The tactics are which change. Now, if you say, are you going to change your strategic objective, it means you're leaving before the mission is complete. And we're not going to leave before the mission is complete. I agree with General Abizaid: We leave before the mission is done, the terrorists will follow us here.

And so we have changed tactics. Our commanders have got the flexibility necessary to change tactics on the ground, starting with Plan Baghdad. And that's when we moved troops from Mosul into Baghdad and replaced them with the Stryker Brigade, so we increased troops during this time of instability.

...

If I didn't think it would work, I would change -- our commanders would recommend changing the strategy. They believe it will work. It takes time to defeat these people. The Maliki government has been in power for less than six months. And, yes, the people spoke. I've cited that as a part of -- the reason I cite it is because it's what the Iraqi people want. And the fundamental question facing this government is whether or not we will stand with reformers across the region. It's really the task. And we're going to stand with this government.

Obviously, I wish the violence would go down, but not as much as the Iraqi citizens would wish the violence would go down. But, incredibly enough, they show great courage, and they want our help. And any sign that says we're going to leave before the job is done simply emboldens terrorists and creates a certain amount of doubt for people so they won't take the risk necessary to help a civil society evolve in the country.

This is a campaign -- I'm sure they're watching the campaign carefully. There are a lot of good, decent people saying, get out now; vote for me, I will do everything I can to, I guess, cut off money is what they'll try to do to get our troops out. It's a big mistake. It would be wrong, in my judgment, for us to leave before the mission is complete in Iraq.

...

No question there's sectarian violence, as well. And the challenge is to provide a security plan such that a political process can go forward. And I know -- I'm sure you all are tired of hearing me say 12 million Iraqis voted, but it's an indication about the desire for people to live in a free society. That's what that means.

And the only way to defeat this ideology in the long-term is to defeat it through another ideology, a competing ideology, one where government responds to the will of the people. And that's really -- really the fundamental question we face here in the beginning of this 21st century is whether or not we believe as a nation, and others believe, it is possible to defeat this ideology.

Now, I recognize some say that these folks are not ideologically bound. I strongly disagree. I think not only do they have an ideology, they have tactics necessary to spread their ideology. And it would be a huge mistake for the United States to leave the region, to concede territory to the terrorists, to not confront them. And the best way to confront them is to help those who want to live in free society.

Look, eventually Iraq will succeed because the Iraqis will see to it that they succeed. And our job is to help them succeed. That's our job. Our job is to help their forces be better equipped, to help their police be able to deal with these extremists, and to help their government succeed.

...

What all of us in this administration have been saying is that leaving Iraq before the mission is complete will send the wrong message to the enemy and will create a more dangerous world. That's what we're saying. It's an honest debate and it's an important debate for Americans to listen to and to be engaged in. In our judgment, the consequences for defeat in Iraq are unacceptable.

I fully understand that some didn't think we ought to go in there in the first place. But defeat -- if you think it's bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself and sustain itself. Chaos in Iraq would be very unsettling in the region. Leaving before the job would be done would send a message that America really is no longer engaged, nor cares about the form of governments in the Middle East. Leaving before the job was done would send a signal to our troops that the sacrifices they made were not worth it. Leaving before the job is done would be a disaster, and that's what we're saying.

...

What matters is that in this campaign that we clarify the different point of view. And there are a lot of people in the Democrat Party who believe that the best course of action is to leave Iraq before the job is done, period. And they're wrong. And the American people have got to understand the consequence of leaving Iraq before the job is done. We're not going to leave Iraq before the job is done, and we'll complete the mission in Iraq. I can't tell you exactly when it's going to be done, but I do know that it's important for us to support the Iraqi people, who have shown incredible courage in their desire to live in a free society. And if we ever give up the desire to help people who live in freedom, we will have lost our soul as a nation, as far as I'm concerned.

- George W. Bush, Press Conference, August 21, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/08/20060821.html


The war on terror is fought in many theaters, and the central front in the war on terror now is Iraq. I say it's the central front because that's what the enemy, themselves, have said, that they want to drive us from the region; that they view it as the central front, as well. They've got objectives in Iraq. They want the United States to suffer a defeat in Iraq. They want us to retreat from Iraq. They want to create such havoc on our TV screens by killing innocent people that the American people finally say, we've had enough -- leaving Iraq before the mission is complete.

And the mission is to have a country, a free country that can sustain itself, and govern itself, and defend itself, and serve as an ally in the war on terror in the heart of the Middle East. That's the mission. And they want us to leave --  They want us to cut and run. And there's some good people in our country who believe we should cut and run. They're not bad people when they say that, they're decent people. I just happen to believe they're wrong. And they're wrong for this reason: This would be a defeat for the United States in a key battleground in the global war on terror. It would create a -- leaving before we complete our mission would create a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, a country with huge oil reserves that the terrorist network would be willing to use to extract economic pain from those of us who believe in freedom.

If we were to leave before the mission is complete, it would hurt U.S. credibility. Who would want to stand with the United States of America if we didn't complete the mission, and a mission that can be completed and will be completed? (If we cut and run, if we don't complete the mission, what would that say to those brave men and women who have volunteered to wear the uniform of the United States of America?  If we leave before the mission is complete, if we withdraw, the enemy will follow us home.

By defeating the enemy in Iraq, jihadists who try to spread sectarian violence through brutal suicide bombings, jihadists who have declared openly that their mission is to convert that country into a safe haven for them to launch attacks -- when we defeat them, there will be a major defeat for the terrorists. It will strengthen the spread of democracy in the Middle East.

Look, our strategy is this: We will stay on the offense -- and we are. Any time we get a hint that somebody is going to hurt us, we respond. And we're keeping the pressure on the enemy. By the way, anybody who follows me should always understand you must keep the pressure on the enemy; otherwise, they will put the pressure on us. They still exist. It's important to understand this is a global war on terror -- not an isolated moment of law enforcement. This is the first war of the 21st century, and the United States of America must lead that war. And we must be firm, and we must be resolved.

We will stay on the offense so we don't have to face them here in the United States of America. The way to defeat this enemy in the long-term is to defeat their hateful ideology with a hopeful ideology; is for the United States of America to understand the power of liberty to help transform people's lives to the better, and the power of liberty to help spread the peace that we want for our children and our grandchildren.

- George W. Bush, Remarks by the President at Lynn Swann for Governor Reception, August 16, 2006

source:   http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/08/20060816-9.html



I know there are calls in some quarters for withdrawal or arbitrary timelines for withdrawals. The enemies hear those words as well.

We need to be realistic about the consequences. If we left Iraq prematurely, as the terrorists demand, the enemy would tell us to leave Afghanistan and then withdraw from the Middle East. And if we left the Middle East, they'd order us and all those who don't share their militant ideology to leave what they call the occupied Muslim lands from Spain to the Philippines. And then we would face not only the evil ideology of these violent extremist, but an enemy that will have grown accustomed to succeeding in telling free people everywhere what to do.

We can persevere in Iraq or we can withdraw prematurely until they force us to make a stand nearer home. But make no mistake, they're not going to give up whether we acquiesce in their immediate demands or not.

Decisions about conditions for a drawdown of our forces in Iraq are best based on the recommendations of the commanders in the field and the recommendations of the gentleman sitting beside me.

We should strive to think through how our words can be interpreted by our troops, by the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, by our 42 allies in our coalition in Afghanistan, and our 34 allies in our coalition in Iraq. And we should consider how our words can be used by our deadly enemy.

The war on terror is going to be a long struggle. It's not something we asked for, but neither is it something we can avoid. But I remain confident in our mission, in our commanders, in our troops and in our cause. And I remain confident in the good common sense of the American people.

Americans didn't cross oceans and settle a wilderness and build history's greatest democracy only to run away from a bunch of murderers and extremists who try to kill everyone that they cannot convert and to tear down what they could never build.

...

The Iraqi security forces are now up to something like 275,000. They are headed toward 325,000 by the end of the year, unless the prime minister makes an adjustment in those numbers, which, as a new government, he has every right to do in a sovereign nation.

I guess the issue of drawdown depends on what you think your base is. We were up at 160,000. Today we're at -- we've gotten as low as, I think, about 127,000. Today we're at a 133,000.

And certainly everyone, from the Iraqis, the troops and the president, would hope that those troops could be drawn down as conditions permit.

The question -- the only difference between the way you phrase it and the president phrases it, as he ends by pointing out that he intends to succeed here and he believes that the determinant should be the conditions on the ground as opposed to some timetable.

I do think the point you raise, the core of what you're asking, is important, and that is the tension that exists between having too many troops and having it feed an insurgency, as you, I believe, indicated General Conway may have referred to, and having too few so that you don't have a sufficient number to allow the security situation to permit the political and the economic activities to go forward.

And that's a fair tension that exists there. And it's an art, not a science; there's no guidebook that says how to do that.

And so, clearly, we would all hope that there could be drawdowns on those forces as the conditions permit.

 

- U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Iraq and Afghanistan, , August 3, 2006

source:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/03/AR2006080300802.html

Source: CQ Transcriptions © 2006, Congressional Quarterly Inc.


President: Iraqi forces to take over by year's end

Wednesday, August 2, 2006; Posted: 4:12 p.m. EDT (20:12 GMT)

Talabani: "We have optimism that we will eliminate terrorism."
 
 BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- President Jalal Talabani said Wednesday he foresees Iraqi forces taking over security in all 18 provinces by the end of the year.

Talabani, who was speaking at a news conference, said the transition will be gradual and multinational forces will be playing a supportive role to the Iraqi troops.

"The role of the multinational forces is a role to help the Iraqi armed forces, and, God willing, the Iraqi armed forces will at the end of the year take over all of the security in all the Iraqi provinces, little by little, gradually, and, God willing, we will be in a position to do that," he said.

Also, he said, "We have optimism that we will eliminate terrorism."

...

Talabani's pronouncement on a security transition is seen as optimistic. The U.S. military is largely in control of the country's security, and the British and Polish militaries each head a division.

Those multi-national forces have had their hands full for years, facing obstacles from the Iraqi insurgency and sectarian hostilities in their efforts to establish security in the country.

U.S. officials indicated that the sooner such a transition could take place, the better. But no one could say it would occur quickly.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Wednesday that while he didn't see the context of the remarks or the translation of it, "obviously, the hope of the Iraqis, the hopes of the Americans, the hopes of the troops is that the Iraqis will continue to take over responsibility for the security of their country and that over time we'll be able to draw down our forces as conditions permit."

A senior Bush administration official told CNN the focus should be on what Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, not Talabani, says.

The official wouldn't call Talabani's comment premature but said any formal announcement on the matter would come from al-Maliki, in consultation with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey.

In his address last week before a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, al-Maliki didn't provide a time frame for a security leadership transition.

"The completion of Iraq's forces form the necessary basis for the withdrawal of multinational forces. But it's only then, only when Iraq's forces are fully capable, will the job of the multinational forces be complete," he said.

"Our Iraqi forces have accomplished much and have gained a great deal of field experience to eventually enable them to triumph over the terrorists and to take over the security portfolio and extend peace through the country."

Lt. Col. Michael J. Negard, a public affairs officer from the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, reacted to the remarks, saying "we are confident we can accomplish our task of training and equipping Iraqi security forces by the end of the year."

However, he said, "any handover of security must come after" any given unit "is fully trained and equipped."

A senior coalition official said that by September, five of the Iraq's 10 army divisions will be take control from coalition forces in different regions across the country. He didn't specify the regions.

Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of Britain's defense staff, told BBC radio on Wednesday that British forces were likely to hand over control of the southern port of Basra early next year, The Associated Press reported.

"We are now on a good path to hand over provincial control of Basra some time in the first part of next year," Stirrup said.

"But these are difficult issues we are grappling with and I can't forecast what will happen over the next several months. This is a dynamic situation and we have to be able to react to any changes that occur. At the moment, we are making good progress."

According to data from the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, there were 269,600 Iraqi security forces -- 154,500 police and 115,100 army -- as of the end of July.

Of Iraq's provinces, only Muthanna province is under Iraqi security forces' control. Iraq forces, however, do control districts here and there throughout the country.

 

source:  http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/08/02/iraq.talabani/index.html

Copyright 2006 CNN.


WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Pentagon extended the tours of about 3,500 US troops in Iraq for 120 days, dashing hopes of US force cuts this year in the face of surging sectarian violence.

The Pentagon also identified army and marine units totaling about 25,000 troops that have been scheduled to deploy to Iraq late this year and early next, enough to maintain the US force at about 130,000 troops for a year.

"Additionally, the secretary of defense approved a request by the commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) to extend the deployment of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team operating in Iraq for up to 120 additional days," it said.

The move indicated that US commanders have effectively given up hopes for even a gradual reduction in the US force this year on account of a bitter insurgency and spiraling sectarian violence.

It boosted the size of the US force from 14 brigades to 15 brigades, and from 127,000 troops to at least 130,000.

Army officials said that by the end of August the US force should increase to about 134,000 troops with the arrival of another brigade from the 82nd Airborne Infantry Division.

President George W. Bush, meeting this week with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said more US and Iraqi troops will be sent into Baghdad to quell waves of violence by Shiite and Sunni death squads.

The plan to beef up security in the capital reportedly will add an extra 4,000 US troops and an equal number of Iraqi troops to those already there.

Pentagon officials said the troops being extended will not necessarily be used in Baghdad, but they will free up other troops for duty in the capital.

 

- "Rumsfeld extends tours of 3,500 US troops in Iraq", by Jim Mannion, July 27, 2006

source:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060728/wl_mideast_afp/usiraqmilitarytroops

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse


We've got hard work to do together, Mr. Prime Minister. We were talking here at the table, and I was commenting that it's amazing, isn't it, where some people decide to kill innocent lives to stop freedom. And, frankly, that's a hard concept for some of us to understand. But I understand this: that in order for freedom to succeed, those folks have got to be brought to justice. They cannot be allowed to kill the innocent.

And that's why we've sent some of our finest citizens to help you, Mr. Prime Minister. We want you to succeed. It's in our nation's interest that you succeed. And I'm confident we will succeed. The Prime Minister came, and he didn't say this directly to me but I could tell by looking in my eyes he wanted to make sure that this was a President who kept his word. I've told the Iraqi people we stand with you, and that no matter how tough it gets, we will complete this mission. We owe it to those who have served in combat. We owe it to those who have lost a limb. We owe it to those who have lost a life.

Fort Belvoir lost a good man recently in Sergeant First Class Scott Smith. He was killed by an IED. He helped save lives. He helped lay that foundation for peace. And in honor of his memory, and in the memory of others who have gone before him, in honor of the thousands of Iraqis who have died at the hands of terrorists, we will complete the mission. It's in our interest, Mr. Prime Minister, that we succeed together.

- George W. Bush, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki Visit with Military Personnel and Families, July 26, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/07/20060726-1.html


PRESIDENT BUSH:  Our priority is to help this government succeed. It's in the national interest of the United States that a unity government, based upon a constitution that is advanced and modern, succeed. And that's what I told the Prime Minister. He comes wondering whether or not we're committed. He hears all kinds of stories here in the United States. And I assured him that this government stands with the Iraqi people. We're impressed by your courage, Mr. Prime Minister, and we're impressed by the courage of the Iraqi people. And we want to help you.

We talked about security in Baghdad. No question the terrorists and extremists are brutal. These are people that just kill innocent people to achieve an objective, which is to destabilize his government. The Prime Minister tells me that he and his government are not shaken by these actions. They're concerned about them, they're not shaken by them.

The Iraqi people want to succeed. They want to end this violence. Our strategy is to remain on the offense, including in Baghdad. Under the Prime Minister's leadership, coalition and Iraqi leaders are modifying their operational concept to bring greater security to the Iraqi capital. Coalition and Iraqi forces will secure individual neighborhoods, will ensure the existence of an Iraqi security presence in the neighborhoods, and gradually expand the security presence as Iraqi citizens help them root out those who instigate violence.

This plan will involve embedding more U.S. military police with Iraqi police units to make them more effective. The Prime Minister advised me that to support this plan, he and General Casey have agreed to deploy additional American troops and Iraqi security personnel in Baghdad in the coming weeks. These will come from other areas of the country. Our military commanders tell me that this deployment will better reflect the current conditions on the ground in Iraq.

We also agreed that Iraqi security forces need better tools to do their job. And so we'll work with them to equip them with greater mobility, fire power, and protection.

We still face challenges in Baghdad, yet we see progress elsewhere in Iraq. Iraqi security forces are growing in strength and capability, and recently, a key province in southern Iraq was transferred to full Iraqi civilian control. In the midst of all the violence in Baghdad, sometimes a -- success is obscured. And this transfer of a key province is a beginning of other provinces to be transferred to full Iraqi control. It's a sign of progress. No question it's tough in Baghdad, and no question it's tough in other parts of Iraq. But there are also places where progress is being made, and the Prime Minister and I talked about that progress.

The Prime Minister and I agreed to establish a joint committee to achieve Iraqi self-reliance. This new partnership will seek to ensure the smoothest and most effective assumption of security responsibility by Iraqi forces. Prime Minister Maliki was very clear this morning; he said he does not want American troops to leave his country until his government can protect the Iraqi people. And I assured him that America will not abandon the Iraqi people.

Tomorrow, the Prime Minister and I will travel to Fort Belvoir in Virginia to visit with American troops and their families so we can thank them for their courage and their sacrifice. And we in the United States need to recognize the enormous sacrifice of the Iraqi people. The people are suffering hardships. These terrorists and killers are trying to shake the will of the Iraqi people. But despite large casualties, both civilian and military, the Iraqi people continue to stand for public office, enlist in their security forces, and, through their actions, demonstrate every day that they want to raise their families and live their lives like other free people around the world. And I'm impressed by the courage of the Iraqi citizens, Mr. Prime Minister.

Citizens continue to believe in the future of their country and to subscribe to the notion upon which America is also founded, that the freedom of their country is worth fighting for. America is proud to be allied with such people. It's important the Iraqi people hear of our pride and our determination, Mr. Prime Minister.

We also discussed several new initiatives we're undertaking to create opportunity for the Iraqi people, and one of them is called the Iraqi Leaders Initiative. And starting next summer, 200 high school and university students from all regions of Iraq and all sectors of Iraqi society will come to America to study at local institutions and build personal friendships with the people of our country. This is going to be the largest program of its kind, and it will help build the next generation of leaders for a free and democratic Iraq.

...

Q Mr. President, and Mr. Prime Minister, why should one expect this new security crackdown in Baghdad to succeed when all previous ones have failed?   And, Mr. President, you've said before that withdrawal of U.S. troops would depend on conditions on the ground. What do conditions on the ground now in Baghdad suggest in terms of whether there can be a significant withdrawal of American forces by the end of the year?

...

PRESIDENT BUSH: One of the things that's important is for -- and one of the reasons why you trust the commanders on the ground is because there needs to be flexibility. And I explained to the Prime Minister that I'll be making my decisions based upon the recommendations of General Casey. And, obviously, the violence in Baghdad is still terrible, and, therefore, there needs to be more troops. In other words, the commanders said, what more can we do; how best to address the conditions on the ground. And they have recommended, as a result of working with the Prime Minister, based upon his recommendation, that we increase the number of U.S. troops in Baghdad, alongside of Iraqi troops. And we're going to do that.

The second request that the Prime Minister made was that he needs more equipment for his troops. And General Dempsey, along with General Casey have reviewed his requests and his ideas. And I told the Prime Minister if this is what these generals recommend, it's what I support.

Conditions change inside a country, Tom. And the question is, are we going to be facile enough to change with -- will we be nimble enough; will we be able to deal with the circumstances on the ground? And the answer is, yes, we will.

 

- George W. Bush, President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq Participate in Press Availability, July 25, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/07/20060725.html


We maintain forces in those countries because we're a nation that keeps its word, and because we understand what is at stake in that part of the world. The terrorists understand it, as well. The terrorists know that as freedom takes hold, the ideologies of hatred and resentment will weaken, and the advance of free institutions in the broader Middle East will produce a safer world for our children and grandchildren. The war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization. It's a battle worth fighting. And it is a battle we are going to win.

The terrorists have made Iraq the central front in this war. And we wage this fight with good allies at our side, including an Iraqi Security Force growing in size and ability. We'll continue to train the Iraqi forces so they can defend their own country and make it a source of stability in a troubled region. When it comes to our own troop levels, the President will listen to the recommendations of commanders on the ground. And he'll make the call based on what is needed for victory, not according to the polls, and not by artificial time lines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.

In our own country, we take democratic values seriously -- and so we always have a vigorous debate on the issues. That's part of the greatness of America. We wouldn't have it any other way. But there is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism. We have only two options in Iraq -- victory or defeat. And I want you to know, as members of the United States military, that the American people do not support a policy of retreat or defeatism.  We want to complete the mission, to get it done right, and return with honor.

U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Vice President's Remarks at a Rally for the Troops at Fort Stewart, Georgia, July 21, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/07/20060721-6.html


"There's a vigorous debate taking place right now about the way forward in Iraq. A number of well-known Democrats have been talking about setting a firm deadline for withdrawal," Cheney said.

"That's a bad idea. Americans and our Iraqi allies need to know that decisions about troop levels will be driven by conditions on the ground and by the judgments of our military commanders, not artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington," he said.

- U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, at an Iowa fund-raiser for Republican congressional candidate Jeff Lamberti, July 17, 2006

source:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060717/ts_nm/cheney_dc_1

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited


We maintain forces in Afghanistan and Iraq because we're a nation that keeps its word, and because we understand what is at stake in that part of the world. The terrorists understand it, as well. The terrorists know that as freedom takes hold, the ideologies of hatred and resentment will weaken, and the advance of free institutions in the broader Middle East will produce a safer world for our children and grandchildren. The war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization. It's a battle worth fighting. It's a battle we're going to win.

The terrorists have made Iraq the central front in this war. And we wage this fight with good allies at our side, including an Iraqi Security Force growing in size, ability, and effectiveness. We'll continue to train the Iraqi forces so they can defend their own country and make it a source of stability in a troubled part of the world. As always, decisions about American troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground and the judgment of our military commanders -- not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.

- U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Vice President's Remarks at a Rally for the Iowa Air and Army National Guard, July 17, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/07/20060717-9.html


There is a vigorous debate going on right now about the way forward in Iraq. A number of well-known Democrats have been talking about setting a firm deadline for withdrawal. That's a bad idea. Americans and our Iraqi allies need to know that decisions about troop levels will be driven by conditions on the ground and by the judgments of our American military commanders, not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.

- U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Cheney speaks at Hotel Utica, July 14, 2006

source:  http://news10now.com/content/top_stories/default.asp?ArID=72876

Copyright ©2006 TWEAN News Channel of Syracuse, LLC


The same is true for the men and women serving in Iraq. Americans understand what is at stake in that country -- and so do the terrorists. That's why they commit acts of random horror, calculated to shock and intimidate the civilized world. The terrorists know that as freedom takes hold, the ideologies of hatred and resentment will weaken, and the advance of free institutions in the Middle East will produce a much safer world for our children and grandchildren. The war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization. It's a battle worth fighting. It's a battle we're going to win.

Iraq is the central front in that war. Having removed a dictator, our coalition is working with Iraq's leaders toward the same goal: a democratic country that can defend itself, that will not be a safe haven for terrorists, that will be a model for freedom in a troubled part of the world. By voting in free elections, by ratifying a constitution, by going to the polls with an amazing turnout rate of more than 70 percent, Iraqis have shown they value their own liberty and are determined to choose their own destiny. Iraq today has the most progressive constitution in the entire Arab world, and a unity government committed to a future of freedom for all Iraqis. Our strategy in Iraq is clear; our tactics will remain flexible. Progress has not come easily and we can expect further attacks from the enemies of freedom. Yet there is no denying the hopeful signs, and we can look to the future with confidence. All of us live in a better world because Zarqawi is dead, Saddam Hussein is on trial, and Iraq is free.

Our coalition has also put great effort into standing up the Iraqi security forces. As those forces gain strength and experience, and as the political process advances, we'll be able to decrease troop levels without losing our capacity to defeat the terrorists. And as always, decisions about troop levels will be made by the President -- driven by the conditions on the ground and the judgment of our military commanders, not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.

- U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Vice President's Remarks at a Rally for the Michigan National Guard and Joint Services, July 10, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/07/20060710-7.html


The central front in the war on terror is Iraq. And I know Iraq is on the minds of a lot of people here in Chicago. It's hard work. It's hard work because we face an enemy that will keep innocent people in order to achieve an objective, and their objective is to drive us out of Iraq so they can have safe haven from which to launch attacks against modern Muslim nations, so they can spread their ideology of hate. They want us to -- they believe capitalist societies and democracies are inherently weak. They do not believe that we've got the capacity to do the hard work necessary to help the Iraqis succeed.

And they're mistaken. They're just wrong. Success in Iraq is vital for the security of the United States, and success in Iraq is vital for long-term peace. And so, therefore, we'll complete the mission.

But we've got good partners. And Zal Khalilzad came in the other day, who is our Ambassador to Iraq. And he, like me, has confidence in Prime Minister Maliki. He's a guy who can set goals and follow through on those goals. He understands what needs to be done in order to succeed. And he represents the will of 12 million people who went to the polls. That's a pretty interesting sign that the Iraqi people want to live in freedom.

...

Q Yes, sir. Thank you. Mr. President, three Illinois National Guard units left this week for Iraq, at a time when there's discussion about withdraw or draw-down of troops. What are the families of these Illinois National Guardsmen to expect?

THE PRESIDENT: They expect that their loved one will be participating in a noble and important cause. If I didn't think it was important, I wouldn't have put out the orders to have people go there. And if I didn't think we could win, I wouldn't be there. That's what they can expect. They can expect tough work, tough sledding, and they can expect a grateful Commander-in-Chief and a grateful nation for the sacrifices.

In terms of troop levels, those decisions will be made by General Casey. There's a debate in Washington as to whether or not we set an artificial timetable for withdrawal. That's what it's about in Washington, D.C. And the answer is, absolutely not. You can't win a war if you have an artificial timetable for withdrawal. You can't have people making troop decisions based upon political considerations. It just won't work. It's unfair to those families that were sending -- of the kids we're sending over, and it's unfair to the troops.

Artificial timetable for withdrawal send the wrong message to the Iraqis, they're seeing it's not worth it. There's a lot of Iraqis over there determined -- trying to make up their mind whether they want to be a part of democracy, or whether or not they're going to take to the hills and see what happens. Artificial timetable for withdrawal, an early withdrawal before this finishes sends the message to the enemy, we were right about America. That's what they said. Al Qaeda has said it's just a matter of time before America withdraws. They're weak, they're corrupt, they can't stand it, and they'll withdraw. And all that would do is confirm what the enemy thinks.

And getting out before we finish the job would send a terrible message to the troops who sacrificed. We'll win. We'll achieve our objective, which is a free that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and will be an ally in the war on terror. And we're making progress toward that goal.

The problem is that the enemy gets to define success better than we do. See, they'll kill innocent people like that (snaps his fingers), they don't care. Life is not precious to them. And they're willing to kill women and children in order to achieve a tactical objective. And it gets on our TV screens. And people mourn the loss of life. This is a compassionate nation that cares about people, and when they see people die on their TV screens, it sends a signal, well, maybe we're not winning.

We occasionally are able to pop in with great success, like Zarqawi or 12 million people voting. But increasing electricity in Baghdad is not the kind of thing that tends to get on the news, or small business formation is not the kind of thing to get -- or new schools or new hospitals, the infrastructure being rebuilt that had been torn apart. And I'm not being critical. I'm just giving you a fact of something I have to deal with in order to make it clear to the American people that the sacrifice of those families is worth it. We are winning. And a free Iraq is an essential part of changing the conditions which causes the terrorists to be able to recruit killers in the first place.

For a long period of time, our foreign policy was just kind of excuse tyranny and hope for the best. It didn't work. The world may have seemed placid, it may have seemed calm, but beneath the surface was resentment and hatred, out of which came an attack that killed 3,000 of our citizens.

And so I am committed to the spread of liberty. It's, after all, how we were founded. And there's a debate here in the United States that says, well, maybe it's too much for the United States to insist others live in a free world. Maybe that's just too unilateral. I view that as cultural elitism for people who say that. It's like saying, we're okay to be free, but you're not.

I believe freedom is universal, and I believe etched in the soul of every person on the face of the Earth is the desire to be free. And I know that freedom has got the capacity to change regions of the world for the better.

Our press corps is bored with this story, but I'm going to tell it anyway -- the Koizumi story. (Laughter.) That's what you get when you get familiar with people -- they can anticipate your remarks.

I hope you thought it was interesting that Prime Minister Koizumi and I went to Graceland. It was really a lot of fun, wasn't it? It's an interesting part of the development of our relationship, from one in which Japan was the enemy of the United States, and today, the son of a person who fought the Japanese, and the son of a person who resented the United States are close friends. We talk about keeping the peace. We talk about working together to change the world for the better: What do we do? How do we feed people who are hungry? How do we build roads in Afghanistan? What do we do?

And so what happened? What happened was, is that Japan adopted a Japanese-style democracy after World War II, and the conditions of our relationship -- the condition of the country changed, the attitude changed, and our relationship changed.

The Far East was a pretty difficult place. I know we spend a lot of time talking about the Far East today because of North Korea, but if you really look at the development in the Far East, it's pretty remarkable, isn't it? South Korea has emerged into a vibrant capitalist society. Japan has still got a little hangover from their previous activities in the region, but nevertheless, is a thriving partner in peace. Taiwan is making progress. China has got opening markets. Their economy is growing. Their entrepreneurial class is strong. They need to -- the political needs to evolve. But nevertheless, the region is relatively peaceful except for one outpost; one system that's not open and transparent; one system that doesn't respond to the will of the people; one system that's dark, and that's North Korea.

It took a while for that peaceful evolution to occur. And that's what's going to happen in the Middle East. It is. And it's hard work. And I want those parents to know that. These are historic times. We will lose if we leave too early. The stakes of success are vital, but a free Iraq is going to help inspire others to demand what I believe is a universal right of men and women.

General Casey will make the decisions as to how many troops we have there. And that's important for the families to know. It's really important. General Casey is a wise and smart man who has spent a lot of time in Baghdad recently, obviously. And it's his judgment that I rely upon. He'll decide how best to achieve victory and the troop levels necessary to do so.

I spent a lot of time talking to him about troop levels, and I told him this,; I said, you decide, General. I want your judgment, your advice. I don't want these decisions being made by the political noise, by the political moment. It's just unfair to our troops and it's unfair to their families. It's the reasoned judgment of our military commanders that the President must count on in order to achieve a victory that is necessary to help make this country more secure. And that's exactly how I'm going to make my decision.

So if the people are listening, they need to know I'm proud of their -- proud of their families. The cause is noble and necessary. And the size of the troops that will be there will depend upon the sound judgment of our military commanders.

 

- George W. Bush, Press Conference, July 7, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/07/20060707-1.html


LARRY KING: You've often said to me that options -- you always hold options open. Is one of those options to go in first?

G. BUSH: We want to solve all problems diplomatically. That's our first option. But, of course, the president has got other options.

LARRY KING: Was Iraq then a diplomatic failure?

G. BUSH: Well, you could say that, after 17 U.N. resolutions.

LARRY KING: Concerning Iraq, do you ever have doubts about it? Do you ever say, you know, "The country obviously turns one way. Things don't look great sometimes. People are kind of down?" Does it ever get to you to say -- and this is for both of you. Does it ever get to you to say, "Maybe, maybe it was wrong?"

G. BUSH: The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision and I'm absolutely convinced it was.

Where I get down is when I, you know, that some grieving mom or wife or dad has lost their loved one and that's the agony of war. And I've met with enough families to know how it's broken their heart to lose a loved one.

But I made the right decision and we will succeed in Iraq, unless we decide to quit. And success in Iraq will be really important for the world. It's important for there to be a democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

Things don't happen quickly when it comes to helping a nation go from a tyranny to a democracy. But the Iraqi people were given a chance to vote and they did overwhelmingly. And now we're working with a new unity government, to help succeed.

And when we succeed, I think they'll look back at this moment in history and say it's the beginning of changing the conditions that caused there to be such resentment that people would be willing to commit suicide, acts of suicide against U.S. citizens.

...

KING: We're back with President Bush and Mrs. Bush. A couple more things on Iraq. You -- you the other day mentioned the amount of casualties. You did, too, at Fort Bragg.

G. BUSH: Yes.

KING: You definitely previously had refrained from that. Any reason?

G. BUSH: No, I mentioned it a couple of times before, because I want the American people to know that this is costly. But I also want those who've lost a loved one to know that we honor their sacrifice and their service.

One of the interesting things about my meetings with the loved ones of the fallen is, almost to a person, they have said, "Don't let my son or daughter die in vain."

KING: You ever go to funerals?

G. BUSH: No, I don't.

KING: Why?

G. BUSH: Because it's hard. Whose do you go to and whose do you don't go to? I mean, I want to honor all of them, all those who sacrificed. I think the best way for me to honor them is to complete the mission -- that we're in there to achieve a victory in Iraq. And to meet with families.

KING: So there is no doubt, if you had it to do over again, knowing the WMDs weren't there, you'd still go in?

G. BUSH: Yes. This is -- we removed a tyrant, who was a weapon -- he was an enemy of the United States who harbored terrorists and who had the capacity, at the very minimum, to make weapons of mass destruction. And he was a true threat. And yes, I would have done the same thing.

- George W. Bush on CNN's Larry King Live, July 6, 2006

source:  http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0607/06/lkl.01.html

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.


 When I spoke here a year ago, Iraqis still had a transitional government that was operating under administrative law issued before the restoration of sovereignty. Today, Iraqis have a permanent government chosen in free elections under a democratic constitution that they wrote and they approved. And the Iraqi people have a courageous leader in Prime Minister Maliki, who has formed the cabinet and laid out a clear agenda for the people of Iraq.

I met the Prime Minister. I met with his team. I was impressed by them. I was impressed by his strength. I was impressed by his character. I was impressed by his determination to succeed. He's laid out an ambitious plan to improve its economy and deliver essential services and to defeat the enemies of a free Iraq. And I told him this, that as he stands up for freedom, the United States of America will stand with him.

There's more work to be done in Iraq. The Iraqi people face deadly enemies who are determined to stop Iraq's new unity government from succeeding. They can't stand the thought of liberty. Our strategy is clear, our goals are easy to understand: We will help Iraq's new leaders, we will help the people of Iraq build a country that can govern itself and sustain itself and defend itself as a free nation. Our troops will help the Iraqi people succeed because it's in our national interests. A free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will make America and the world more secure.

I'm going to make you this promise: I'm not going to allow the sacrifice of 2,527 troops who have died in Iraq to be in vain by pulling out before the job is done.

General Casey is working with the Iraqi government on a path forward. But we're not going to set an artificial timetable for withdrawal. Setting an artificial timetable would be a terrible mistake. At a moment when the terrorists have suffered a series of significant blows, setting an artificial timetable would breathe new life into their cause. Setting an artificial timetable would undermine the new Iraqi government and send a signal to Iraq's enemies that if they wait just a little bit longer, America will just give up. Setting an artificial timetable would undermine the morale of our troops by sending the message that the mission for which you've risked your lives is not worth completing. We're not going to set an artificial timetable to withdraw from Iraq. I will make decisions about troop levels in Iraq based on the advice that matters most -- the measured judgment of our military commanders.

I'll make you another pledge: We're going to make sure you have the resources you need to defeat our enemies in Iraq and secure the peace for generations to come. I believe in you, and I believe in all the men and women who are serving in the cause of freedom with such courage and such determination. You're winning this war -- and enemies understand that, too.

We get all kinds of evidence when we raid these safe houses, about their concerns. They bemoan the fact that we're keeping the pressure on them. They see the successes we're having in training. They know we're damaging their cause. This moment when the terrorists are suffering from the weight of successive blows is not the time to call retreat. We will stay, we will fight, and we will prevail.

Prevailing in Iraq is going to require more tough fighting; it's going to require more sacrifice. And when the job in Iraq is done, it will be a major victory in the battle against the terrorists. By achieving victory in Iraq, we will deny the terrorists a safe haven from which to plot and plan new attacks on America and other free nations. By achieving victory in Iraq, we will send a signal to our enemies that America's resolve is firm and that our country will not run in the face of thugs and assassins.

By achieving victory in Iraq, we will help Iraqis build a free nation in the heart of a troubled region, and inspire those who desire liberty -- those democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran. By achieving victory in Iraq, we will honor the sacrifice of the brave men and women who have risked their lives and given their lives for a just and noble cause.

Victory in Iraq will not, in itself, end the war on terror. We're engaged in a global struggle against the followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom and crushes all dissent, and has territorial ambitions and pursues totalitarian aims. This enemy attacked us in our homeland on September the 11th, 2001. They're pursuing weapons of mass destruction that would allow them to deliver even more catastrophic destruction to our country and our friends and allies across the world. They're dangerous. And against such enemy there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in and we will never accept anything less than complete victory.

- George W. Bush, President Bush Thanks Military on Independence Day at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 4, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/07/20060704.html


KING: The Democrats will put on the floor of the Senate today a proposal. They don't have the votes, but they say this administration's policy in Iraq has failed, and the leading Democratic proposal would say let's have a partial withdrawal -- they call it a redeployment -- and then require the administration to put forward a plan. Now, they say this is not cut and run, it's not retreat. But they say three years and three months later, it is time for the administration to tell the Iraqi government: You cannot have this indefinite American security blanket. You need to do a better job of preparing your own people to take over security. What's wrong with that?

CHENEY: Well, it's wrong in many respects, John. First of all, they're wrong; we're making significant progress. We've had major success on the political front in terms of three national elections last year by the Iraqis. They've stood up a brand new government under a new constitution for the first time ever. We've got a quarter of a million Iraqis now in uniform, equipped, trained, in the fight. So there has been significant progress made with respect to what's going on in Iraq.

What the Democrats are suggesting, basically, about a withdrawal -- you can call it redeployment, whatever you want to call it. Basically, it in effect validates the terrorists' strategy. You've got to remember that the Osama bin Laden-types, the al Qaeda-types, the Zarqawi-types that have been active in Iraq are betting that ultimately they can break the United States' will. There's no way they can defeat us militarily. Their whole strategy, if you look at what bin Laden's been saying for 10 years, is they believe they can, in fact, force us to quit, that ultimately we'll get tired of the fight, that we don't have the stomach for a long, tough battle and that we'll pack it in and go home.

If we were to do that it would be devastating from the standpoint of the global war on terror. It would affect what happens in Afghanistan. It would make it difficult for us to persuade the Iranians to give up their aspirations for nuclear weapons. It would threaten the stability of regimes like Musharraf in Pakistan and the Saudis in Saudi Arabia. It is absolutely the worst possible thing we could do at this point. It would be to validate and encourage the terrorists by doing exactly what they want us to do, which is to --

KING: You say -- excuse me for interrupting -- you say validate and encourage the terrorists. The Democrats say they're tired of validating what they view as a failed policy. And as you know, some Democrats want to go even further -- Senator Kerry wants to have a complete withdrawal within a year or so. Jack Murtha, an old friend of yours with whom you have sparred recently in the House, he says, look, when President Reagan realized the policy in Beirut was failing, he withdrew the troops. Call it cut and run, if you will. When President Clinton realized the policy in Somalia was failing, he withdrew the troops. Again, some might say cut and run.

He says this war is costing $8 billion a month, $300 million a day. There's no end in sight. And, forgive me, but he says you don't have a plan. So, let's not have more kids killed.

CHENEY: He's wrong. I like Jack Murtha. He's a friend. We did a lot of business together in the past when I was secretary of defense and he was chairman of the defense appropriation subcommittee. But the instances he cites, Beirut in '83 and Somalia in '93, is what bin Laden cited back in 1997 or '98. He made speeches where he, in effect, argued that the Americans didn't have the stomach for a fight, that ultimately the terrorists would win. Al Qaeda would win. And he cited as evidence of that what happened in Beirut in 1983 and Somalia in 1993. That's my point.

The fact of the matter is that we are in a global conflict. It's not just about Iraq. It's -- we've seen attacks around the world, from New York and Washington all the way around to Jakarta and Indonesia over the course of the last five years. Our strategy that we adopted after 9/11 -- of progressively going after the terrorists, going after states that sponsor terror, taking the fight to enemy -- has been crucial in terms of our being able to defend the United States.

I think one of the reasons we have not been struck again in five years -- and nobody can promise we won't -- but is because we've taken the fight to them. And if Jack Murtha is successful in persuading the country that somehow we should withdraw now from Iraq, then you have to ask what happens to all of those people who've signed up with the United States, who are on our side in this fight against these radical, extremist Islamic types of bin Laden and al Qaeda.

What happens to the 12 million Iraqis who went to the polls last December and voted in spite of the attacks and the car bombs? What happens to the quarter of a million Iraqis who have gotten into the fight to take on the terrorists? The worst possible thing we could do is what the Democrats are suggesting. And no matter how you carve it -- you can call it anything you want, but because it is packing it in, going home, persuading and convincing and validating the theory that the Americans don't have the stomach for this fight.

'We do have a plan'
KING: You disagree with the Democrats' plan. But they are stepping in to a political environment which the American people clearly -- some have anger, some have dissatisfaction, some have doubts about this war and the administration's plan for this war.

Fifty-four percent of the American people say it's a mistake; 55 percent say things are going badly in Iraq; 53 percent in our polling say the American people actually support a timetable. Why is it that the administration has failed to articulate to the American people that -- the American people don't think you have a plan, sir.

CHENEY: Well, they're wrong. We do have a plan. It's there for anybody who wants to take a look at it. The Democrats have repeatedly made this charge. It's simply not the case. There's a good plan in place. We are making significant progress. This is a long-term fight. I think there are a lot of people out there ...

KING: ... You say it's wrong to publicly set a timetable. And I understand the argument for that. You'd cue off -- cue the terrorists to what you're going to do. Has the Iraqi government been told, privately: You need to meet certain benchmarks, training your troops, improving security, by a date certain, because the American people are not going to pay for this forever?

CHENEY: No. I think they know full well that we're expecting them to take on more and more responsibility. It's one of the reasons the president went to Baghdad recently. And all of conversations with them, they know what we're trying to do and they've stepped up to that task and that responsibility. Fact of the matter is that, obviously, we've lost a lot of people. Wish we hadn't lost anybody. But the heavy casualties are being taken by the Iraqis. There are a lot more Iraqis being -- become casualties in this conflict at present, because they are now in a fight.

Again, I come back to the basic proposition. What happens, in the global war on terror, if the United States bails out on Iraq? And that's exactly what withdrawal is. You know, you're going to take your troops before the conflict is over with.

You're not going to complete the mission if we follow the Democrats' advice. And, in fact, we will have set up the situation in which the al Qaeda types can win. They have a plan to establish a caliphate that stretches from Spain all the way around to Indonesia, to kick the Americans out of the Middle East, to destroy Israel, to take down most of those regimes in that part of the world. And they will do anything they can to achieve that objective.

But, ultimately, what they're betting on is that we don't have the stomach for the fight, and we can not afford to validate that strategy. We can win -- we are winning -- but we've got to stay at it.

No regrets
KING: In the political debate over the war, even your friends say that you have given the Democrats a couple of doozies by saying early on we would be greeted as liberators, by saying about a year ago the insurgency was in its last throes. I know factually you have said you stand by those statements based on the circumstances at that time. You're not new to this game; you've been in national politics for 30-something years. In the political environment, do you wish you could take those words back?

CHENEY: No, I think that in fact we're making very significant progress. There's no doubt in my mind that we're going to win. We will prevail in Iraq. We will prevail in Afghanistan. And I think the evidence is there for anybody who wants to look at it.

With respect to the overall course of the campaign, I think it's been very successful. With respect to this question of liberation, we have indeed liberated 50 million people: 25 million in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban; 25 million in Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein, two of the worst regimes in modern times, very, very significant achievement. But we have to stay the course.

It does not make any sense for people to think that somehow we can retreat behind our ocean, leave the Middle East, walk away from Iraq and we'll be safe and secure here at home. 9/11 put the lie to that. We lost 3,000 people that day. Nineteen people, armed terrorists armed with box cutters, came to the United States and did enormous damage to us. If we pull out they'll follow. It doesn't matter where we go. This is global conflict. We've seen them attack in London, Madrid, Casablanca, Istanbul and Mombasa in East Africa. They've been on a global basis involved in this conflict. And it will continue whether we complete the job or not in Iraq. Only it will get worse. Iraq will become a safe haven for terrorists. They'll use it in order to launch attacks against our friends and allies in other parts of the world.

KING: You acknowledged this past week that the administration and you personally underestimated the strength of the insurgency. As you know, even friends of the administration, supportive of this war, have criticized the administration, saying that not enough troops would be sent in at the beginning. You have a unique perspective on this. You were the defense secretary in the first Gulf War, you're the vice president now. In the first Gulf War it was the [Gen. Colin] Powell doctrine: you're going to put U.S. troops at risk, so go in in overwhelming numbers with overwhelming force so that there is no doubt. Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld prefers the leaner force, more mobile force.

As history looks at this, is one early lesson that the Powell doctrine trumps the Rumsfeld doctrine?

CHENEY: I don't think so. I think you've got to look at each individual circumstance and figure out what makes sense in terms of the kind of forces you'll need to bring to bear, what your enemy's capable of, what your goals and objectives are. I think you have to be very careful about generalizing from one conflict to the next.

- Vice President Dick Cheney sat down Thursday morning with CNN's John King, June 22, 2006

source:  http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/06/22/cheney.access/index.html

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.


Rumsfeld: Sources wrong about troop reduction
Top general says Iranians have increased support of insurgents

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday that the commanding general in Iraq will recommend when to cut U.S. troop levels, in consultation with the nation's new government and other officials.

Speaking at a Pentagon news conference in Washington, Rumsfeld quashed earlier indications from military sources that Gen. George Casey was considering a gradual force reduction in Iraq.

The sources had told CNN that Casey was considering cuts that would amount to as many as two brigades -- an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 troops. The United States has about 127,000 troops in Iraq. (Watch U.S. general suggest scaling back -- 1:50 )

"As the Iraqi forces continue to take over bases and provinces and areas of responsibility and move into the lead, we expect that General Casey will come back and make a recommendation after he's had those discussions," Rumsfeld said.

Casey told reporters at the Pentagon briefing he opposes setting a timetable for withdrawing forces.

"I don't like it. I feel it would limit my flexibility," Casey said. "I think it would give the enemy a fixed timetable, and I think it would give a terrible signal to a new government of national unity in Iraq, which is trying to stand up and get its legs underneath it."

- CNN, June 22, 2006

source:  http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/06/22/iraq.main/index.html

Copyright 2006 CNN


Senate reject calls for withdrawal from Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The GOP-controlled Senate Thursday rejected Democratic calls to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by year's end, as the two parties sought to define their election-year positions on a war that has grown increasingly unpopular.

"Withdrawal is not an option. Surrender is not a solution," declared Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, who characterized Democrats as defeatists wanting to abandon Iraq before the mission is complete.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, in turn, portrayed Republican leaders as blindly following President Bush's "failed" stay-the-course strategy. "It is long past time to change course in Iraq and start to end the president's open-ended commitment," he said. (Watch how Democrats tried to put the GOP on the spot -- 2:27)

In an 86-13 vote, the Senate turned back a proposal from some Democrats that would require the administration to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007, with redeployments beginning this year. No Republicans voted in favor of the plan.

The amendment that would have established a withdrawal timetable was offered by Sens. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts; Russ Fiengold, D-Wisconsin; Barbara Boxer, D-California; and Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. (Watch CNN's Bill Schneider on how '08 Democratic contenders voted -- 1:52).

Minutes later, the Senate rejected by 60-39 the proposal more popular with Democrats, a nonbinding resolution authored by Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island that would call for the administration to begin withdrawing troops but with no timetable for the war's end.

That vote was mostly along party lines.

Siding with all but one Republican were six Democrats -- Sens. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and three running for re-election this fall: Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Bill Nelson of Florida and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who also is up for re-election, was the only Republican supporter of the troop withdrawal resolution.

The votes come a week after both houses of Congress soundly rejected withdrawal timetables for the 127,000 troops in Iraq, and as polls show voters are weary about the war in its fourth year.

Republicans argued the United States must stay put to help the fledgling Iraqi government, while Democrats demanded that the Bush administration make clear that American forces won't be in Iraq forever.

"We must give them that support and not send a signal that we're going to pull possibly the rug out from under them," Sen. John Warner, a Virginia Republican, said.

"The United States, with our Iraqi partners, has the responsibility to see this through," Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, added.

But Feingold said, "It is time to tell the Iraqis that we have done what we can do militarily."

"Maintaining the status quo ... is a recipe for continuing instability and failure," Levin said.

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have staged bitter partisan debates on Iraq for two weeks, with both sides maneuvering for the political upper-hand in a midterm election year.

GOP hopes to exploit divisions
This week, Senate Republicans welcomed the Democratic-engineered debate because it highlighted divisions in the Democratic Party little more than four months before Election Day and as the GOP is trying to overcome polls showing the public favors a power shift in Congress to Democrats.

Democrats, for their part, tried to deflect attention from differences in their party on Iraq, even though the debate was over two separate Democratic proposals on the fate of U.S. troops.

The other proposal, supported by most Democrats and their leadership, would have called for the administration to begin "a phased redeployment of U.S. forces" by year's end. The nonbinding resolution would not have set a deadline for when all forces must be withdrawn.

The Bush administration says U.S. troops will stay in Iraq until Iraqi security forces can defend the country against a lethal insurgency that rose up after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

Senate Republicans opposed any timeline. They said a premature pullout and a public pronouncement of any such plan would risk all-out civil war, tip off terrorists, threaten U.S. security and cripple the Iraqi government.

In turn, almost all Democrats chastised Republicans for walking in lockstep with Bush and they accused him of failing to articulate a plan for the way ahead in Iraq. Democrats said it is time for troops to start coming home and for Congress to send a clear signal that the U.S. presence is not indefinite.

- CNN, June 22, 2006

source:  http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/06/22/iraq.senate.ap/index.html

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.


During my trip, I was impressed with the Prime Minister, the team he has assembled, and the plan he has set for his government. I appreciate his determination, and the determination of his Cabinet, to make his agenda work. I told them that the future of Iraq is in their hands. And I told them that America is a nation that keeps its word, and America will stand with them as we work toward our shared goal: a free Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. By seizing this moment of opportunity, we will defeat our common enemies and build a lasting democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and that will make Americans, Iraqis, and the world more secure.

I traveled to Baghdad to personally show our Nation's commitment to a free Iraq, because it is vital for the Iraqi people to know with certainty that America will not abandon them after we have come this far. The challenges that remain in Iraq are serious. We face determined enemies who remain intent on killing the innocent, and defeating these enemies will require more sacrifice and the continued patience of our country. But our efforts in Iraq are well worth it, the mission is necessary for the security of our country, and we will succeed.

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, June 17, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/06/20060617.html


I was impressed with the Prime Minister [of Iraq], and I'm impressed by his team. I told him that America is a nation that meets its commitments and keeps its word. And that's what we're going to do in Iraq. It's in our interest that Iraq succeed. More importantly, it's in the interest of the Iraqi people. The challenges that remain are serious, and they will require more sacrifice and patience. And our efforts are well worth it.

By helping this new government succeed, we'll be closer to completing our mission, and the mission is to develop a country that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself, and a country that is an ally in the war on terror. We'll seize this moment of opportunity to help the Prime Minister. We'll defeat our common enemies. We'll help build a lasting democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and that will make Americans and Iraqis and the world more secure.

I'll now take your questions. Nedra.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said yesterday that a standard of no violence in Iraq is an impossible standard to meet, but do you believe that there needs to be a reduction in violence for U.S. troops to begin to draw down? And if so, how much?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I said that if people say, well, there's got to be no violence in order for this to be a successful experience, then it's not going to happen. All that does is give the power of -- a handful of murderers to determine success. Obviously, we'd like violence to go down, and that's what the operation in Baghdad is intending to do, starting in the capital, is to reduce violence. And the reason why it's important for violence to be reduced, obviously, is, one, to save lives, but, two, give confidence to the Iraqi people that their government will be able to sustain itself and govern itself, and meet the needs of the people.

This is a tough struggle, and the reason why is because the rules of warfare as we used to know them are out the window. I mean, there's no rule of warfare. It's just, if you can kill innocent life in order to shake somebody's will or create consternation in a society, just go ahead and do it. And so it's a tough task, no question about it.

But I'm confident that this government will succeed in meeting that task. And the reason why I said that we shouldn't use the level of -- have a zero-violence expectation is because there are other measures to determine success, starting with political measures.

I mean, this is a government which is now a unity government, formed under a constitution that the people voted for. That's success. The question is, can this government sustain itself, and that -- one way to measure whether it can defend itself is through the strength of their army and their police. So that's what I said.

And the second part of your question?

Q Do you have a specific target for how much you want that violence to be reduced?

THE PRESIDENT: Enough for the government to succeed. In other words, the Iraqi people have got to have confidence in this unity government, and reduction in violence will enable the people to have confidence.

And you said something about troop levels. Our policy is stand up/stand down; as the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down. But if we stand down too soon, it won't enable us to achieve our objectives. And we will support this Iraqi government -- that's what I went to tell them. We'll do what it takes to support them. And part of that support is the presence of coalition forces.

...

Q Good morning, Mr. President. You seem quite energized by this moment of opportunity.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I'm just fighting off fatigue.

Q I know the feeling, sir. I'm wondering, though, if there are ever moments of doubt about your decisions and strategy in Iraq. Do you ever have a moment where you feel this just won't end well, that no matter how many Zarqawis are killed, the insurgents are just never going to give up?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, one of the reasons I went to Iraq was to be able to sit down with an Iraqi government to determine whether or not they have the will to succeed.

Success in Iraq depends upon the Iraqis. If the Iraqis don't have the will to succeed, they're not going to succeed. We can have all the will we want, I can have all the confidence in the ability for us to bring people to justice, but if they choose not to take the -- make the hard decisions and to implement a plan, they're not going to make it. And so, one of the things I went to Iraq to do was to, as best as I possibly can, expel any doubt in my mind as to whether or not we have a partner that is going to do the hard work.

One of the interesting things that -- and by the way, I believe we will have a partner to do the hard work. I made it clear to the government there that it's up to them to succeed. It's really up to them to put a plan in place and execute it. We'll help, but it's -- they were elected by the people, they're living under a constitution that the people endorsed, and they have to follow through.

And that's why I was most interested in hearing the Prime Minister's plans on electricity and energy and security. As I mentioned to you, there's an operation now going on in Baghdad that he helped put together, that we're helping him on. He recognizes that the capital city of a country sends important signals to the rest of the country -- the security of the capital city -- to the country and the world. He knows that. And that's why he has worked out a robust plan, with our help.

And so doubts about whether or not this government can -- has got the will to go forward was expelled. That's why I went. In other words, sitting here in America, wondering whether or not these people have got what it takes can create uncertainty. I've eliminated that uncertainty. I was able to sit with the man and talk to him.

I was also pleased to meet with his cabinet. You might remember, it wasn't all that long ago that there were some doubts in people's minds as to whether or not this government had the capacity to put a unity government -- as a matter of fact, there was doubts after the first election as to whether or not a portion of the population would even participate in the elections. And last December a lot of folks voted, from all different aspects of society, and the government reflects that. And that was important for me to see firsthand, as well.

The enemy has an advantage in this war, because they can get on our TV screens every day. And, of course, it upsets me when I see the loss of innocent life, and it upsets me to know that our servicemen and women are losing their lives. I'm like most Americans, it is -- death affects my way of thinking. But I also understand the stakes of this war, see. I understand how important it is to defeat the enemy. Now, I recognize some in the country don't feel that same sense of urgency I do. But al Qaeda is real; their philosophy is a real philosophy; they have ambitions. Their stated goal is to drive us out of Iraq before a government can defend itself and govern itself and sustain itself, so they can have safe haven from which to launch further attacks. And my most important job is to protect the American people from harm. And I understand the stakes of this war. And I understand this battlefront in Iraq.

And I want to repeat something: Iraq is not the only part of this war. It's an essential part, but it's not the only part of the war on terror. And so the decisions I make are all aimed at protecting the American people, and understanding the vast stakes involved. If the United States of America leaves before this Iraqi government can defend itself and sustain itself and govern itself, it will be a major blow in the war on terror. Al Qaeda will benefit. And make no mistake about it, they still want to do innocent people harm, whether it be in the Middle East, or whether it be here in the United States of America. The stakes are high in Iraq.

And my trip over there gave me confidence that we have a partner that is capable of setting priority and developing a plan to meet those priorities, and then following through to see that those priorities are met. And my assurances to him were, you get good plans and you have the desire to follow through, we'll help you, we'll help you. We will do what it takes to help you succeed. It's in our national interest to do so.

Let's see here. Brett.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Could you characterize the worry you heard from Iraqi leaders about U.S. troop levels that you first mentioned on the flight home from Iraq? And here in the Rose Garden a week ago, you said that Zarqawi's death is an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide in this struggle. After your visit, do you truly believe that the tide is turning in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: First part of the question? I'm sorry.

Q About the worry that you --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. No question, there are concerns about whether or not the United States will stand with this government. And I can understand why. You know, ours is a society that encourages debate and people are free to express themselves. And they do so; they say, look, this is my view of how we ought to go forward, this is what I think. And the willingness of some to say that if we're in power we'll withdraw on a set timetable concerns people in Iraq, because they understand our coalition forces provide a sense of stability, so they can address old wrongs and develop their strategy and plan to move forward. They need our help and they recognize that. And so they are concerned about that.

And I'm concerned that an enemy will hear the wrong message. And then I'm also concerned that there are people inside Iraq who have yet to make up their mind as to whether or not they want to help this government succeed, or maybe, or just maybe America will lose its nerve and, therefore, something else, a new team may show up. And so I made it very clear to the Iraqis, and I'm going to make it clear to them again right here that we're going -- we'll stay with them and help them succeed.

I know there is a lot of discussion about troop levels. Those troop levels will be decided upon by General Casey. He will make the recommendations, in consultation with an Iraqi government. But whatever decision General Casey makes, the message is going to be, we stand with you. In other words, if you're more capable it requires less troops, but nevertheless, we're still with you.

Other part?

Q Is the tide turning in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: I think -- tide turning -- see, as I remember -- I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of -- it's easy to see a tide turn -- did I say those words?

Q (Inaudible) --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I probably ought to then reflect on those words and think that -- I sense something different happening in Iraq. The progress will be steady toward a goal that has clearly been defined. In other words, I hope there's not an expectation from people that, all of a sudden, there's going to be zero violence -- in other words, it's just not going to be the case. On the other hand, I do think we'll be able to measure progress. You can measure progress in capacity of Iraqi units. You can measure progress in megawatts of electricity delivered. You can measure progress in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people. There's ways to determine whether or not this government's plans are succeeding.

But I know there's a tangible difference between the government that is now in place and previous governments, and the reason why is because this is a government that's formed under elections and a constitution. And it's a unity government. And so people have a sense of -- they're pulling for their government to succeed. And the reason why is, by far, the vast majority of Iraqis want a normal life. They want their children to be able to go out in the street and play. They want there to be a good education system. They want to be able to have their business -- their little storefront business flourish without fear of bombing. That's what they want.

And so they're pulling for this government to succeed. And it's a government that they elected. It's not a government that we appointed, it's a government that they elected. They have a vital stake in the future of this government. And so there is a noticeable change. And whoever said it's a tide turning, and all that needs -- never mind. (Laughter.)

...

Q Thank you, sir. You just mentioned that you think the United States will be able to measure progress in terms of electricity and oil and violence. And I'm wondering if you can say how you're going to measure that in terms of time. In other words, are you going to put a six-month time frame on this, or a 12-month time frame on this?

THE PRESIDENT: John, I know -- look, I understand the pressures to put timetables out there on everything. And my answer to you is, is that we will work with the Iraqi government to do what's realistic. And the people on the ground will help me understand what is realistic. We will know whether or not the government is capable of following through because we're going to help them follow through.

The answer to electricity is, sooner the better. It's hot over there, and it would be helpful if people had the capacity to cool their homes. It would be a pretty good signal that the government is making a difference in somebody's life.

There are certain projects that are easier to achieve than others. Fixing the infrastructure of the northern Iraq oil fields is going to be more difficult to do. It's old, it's tired, it's been destroyed by an enemy, and it's going to take a while to get that done. And so we've got to be realistic with this government. There is a -- but, nevertheless, I do believe that it makes sense to develop with them benchmarks, so we can measure progress. And once those are in place, and to the extent they are, we'll be glad to share them with you.

...

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Yesterday while you were gone, Senator Kerry, who was your challenger in the last election --

THE PRESIDENT: I remember that.

Q You remember that. (Laughter.) He said he now regrets his votes on the war. And, actually, I think Senator Clinton at the same meeting, actually heard some boos when she said that she did not support a timetable for withdrawal. Do you see, as some of your critics do, a parallel between what's going on in Iraq now and Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Q Why?

THE PRESIDENT: Because there's a duly-elected government; 12 million people voted. They said, we want something different from tyranny, we want to live in a free society. And not only did they vote for a government, they voted for a constitution. Obviously, there is sectarian violence, but this is, in many ways, religious in nature, and I don't see the parallels.

You know, look -- I thought you were going to ask, do I regret what I did. Absolutely not. I made the right decision in Iraq. It's the right thing to get rid of Saddam Hussein. And now it's the right thing to stand with this government when they build a new democracy. And I reminded the Iraqi people, their democracy doesn't have to look like us. It's their country, and the government ought to reflect their traditions and their history. All we expect is people to be treated with respect and there to be self-governance in a way that tolerates differences of opinion.

...

Q Mr. President, the death of Zarqawi and the formation of the new government in Iraq has given you a chance to re-engage the American people on Iraq. A majority of the people still say that the war was a mistake. Do you think that the people have turned off on Iraq? Or do you think they're still winnable back, to consider it was worth it?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the people want to know, can we win? That's what they want to know. Listen, admittedly, there are a group of people in our country that say, it wasn't worth it, get out now. And that opinion is being expressed. As these campaigns start approaching you'll hear more people say, I suspect, it's a mistake, Bush shouldn't have done what he did, pull out. And that's a legitimate debate to have in America, and I look forward to the debate. I will remind the America people if we pull out before we achieve our objective, the world will be a lot more dangerous and America will be more at risk.

Then there are some in the country that say, we understand the stakes, but do they have a plan to win, can they possibly win. And I will continue to explain to the American people winning means a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself, and an ally in the war on terror, and we will help this government do that. And one of the reasons I went to Iraq was to determine whether or not we have a partner which is capable of making the tough decisions necessary to achieve our objective.

The American people have got to understand that Iraq is a part of the war on terror. Now, Richard, I fully understand how people might have made the decision that America is no longer under threat, or the lessons of September the 11th were just momentary lessons. I can understand that. But I have a responsibility to lay out what I believe, and the lessons learned from September the 11th are still an integral part of my thinking, and I'll continue to make decisions based upon the lessons.

And I know there is an international jihadist movement that desires to do us harm and they have territorial ambitions. The reason I know that is that's what they've told us. And part of their territorial ambition is to have safe haven in Iraq. That's what they've said. That's what the enemy has clearly said. And it seems like to me that the Commander-in-Chief ought to listen to what the enemy says. And they believe capitalists and democratic societies are soft and it's a matter of time before we pull out.

And that's why one message that I will continue to send to the enemy is, don't count on us leaving before the message is complete. Don't bet on it; don't bet on American politics forcing my hand, because it's not going to happen. I'm going to make decisions not based upon politics, but based upon what's best for the United States of America.

But I understand why people, Richard, are concerned, because progress is hard to see. You know, it's one thing to say, we've got Zarqawi, that's progress; it's another thing to say, I met with the man and I believe he can make the right decisions. And so somebody is going to say, sure, well, show me. And I understand that. And I understand how tough it is for the American people to reconcile death on their TV screens with the President saying we're making incremental progress toward an important goal. But I hope they understand is how important it is we succeed in Iraq, that the country is more dangerous if we don't -- the world is more dangerous if we don't succeed.

And so I'm going to keep talking about it, and talking about -- because I believe passionately we're doing the right thing. And I've told the American people this: If I didn't think we could succeed, and if I didn't think it was worth it, I'd pull our troops out. And I mean that.

And one reason I went to Iraq yesterday, no matter how secretive the trip was, was to get a firsthand feel for how those people are thinking over there, what are they like. I understand leadership. Leadership requires determination. You've got to be determined to do something in order to be able to lead, particularly in difficult circumstances. You've got to have will. You've got to have desire to succeed. You've got to have a plan. And that's what I found in Iraq.

It's really important that the Iraqi people have no doubt in their mind that we will help this government succeed. It's important for them to understand that. And I know there's going to be different voices, and there should be different voices out of America. That's where we're great. That's what makes us interesting and great; people can say whatever they want to say, as they try to attract votes. But my voice, what you hear from me, no matter what these polls and all the business look like, is that it's worth it, it is necessary, and we will succeed.

- George W. Bush, Press Conference, June 14, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/06/20060614.html


 Q: [Inaudible] see a return of US troops from Iraq this year or will it be 2007?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Inaudible] We just repeated what the President has said. That is we are there to complete the mission and the Iraqi government intends to see it completed to success. They are improving and strengthening their Security Forces. And as they do so, we will continue to pass off responsibility to them. There will be meetings with General Casey and the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister in the weeks ahead discussing at what pace we’ll be able to draw down our forces and it will all be done in a very orderly way.

Q: [Inaudible]

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The conditions on the ground will determine it and to the extent that it requires an increase as it did during the stand up the government, General Casey brought more some troops in. We are now down from a high of 160,000 to 129,000. We will have a force level that will be appropriate.

You have got to remember that the Iraqi Security Forces now are 263,000. They are vastly larger than we are and they are increasing every day, every week in both size and capability and experience.

- Press Availability with Secretary Rumsfeld at the Senate Ops Intell, June 13, 2006

source:  http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2006/tr20060613-13242.html


BLITZER: This is what the new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said on May 24th.  He said: "Our forces will be able to take over the security file in all Iraqi provinces in a year and a half."  That sounds like a very ambitious schedule that he has in mind, because if Iraqi forces can take over security in all the provinces, that means U.S. and other coalition forces can leave within a year and a half.  Is that realistic?

AL-RUBAIE: Let me tell you something, Wolf. We have what we call a condition-based agreement with the coalition forces, with the coalition in Iraq.  Basically, the more our Iraqi security forces, our police, our army, the more they grow in number, in training and are ready and able to perform and to protect our people, then the less we need of the multinational forces.  I believe, by the end of the year, of this year, I believe that the number of the multinational forces will be probably less than 100,000 in this country.  And by the end of next year, most of the multinational forces will have gone home. And by the middle of 2008, we will not see a lot of visibility, neither in the cities or in the towns, of the multinational forces.  So the overwhelming majority of the multinational forces will leave, probably before the before the middle of 2008.

BLITZER: That's a very ambitious schedule. And it falls in line with what Prime Minister al-Maliki said. As you know, President Bush is convening his national security team at Camp David on Monday. On Tuesday, he'll have a video conference with the leadership of Iraq, with Prime Minister al-Maliki.  Is this what you expect to be discussed, an eventual troop withdrawal, U.S. and coalition forces, during these two days of meetings?

AL-RUBAIE: Wolf, there are so many things we need to discuss with the American administration and with the U.S. government. There is the long-term and the strategic relationship between Iraq and the United States.  There is the president's ordered departure of the troops, and this is conditions-based, as I said. And also, we need to work out what are there logistical support, what other support, financial support, military support, the guarantees after the departure of the multinational forces.  There are a whole list of things we need -- we will need to discuss with the American administration.  So I believe it's going to be a very important meeting, and we certainly need more.  I mean, we'll need to work out what sort of financial help we need for next year, Iraq needs, what sort of training we need, what the level of troops is going to be for the next year in Iraq and the number of multinational forces, and so on and so forth.

Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al Rubaie, on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, June 11, 2006

source:  http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0606/11/le.01.html

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.


SCHIEFFER: General, I know you wouldn't want to talk about deadlines, but do you think that the Iraqi government, the police force, the army, is it anywhere close to being able to taking over all of this responsibility that so much of is being carried out now by American troops?

Gen. CASEY: Actually, there has been a great shift in the--what's being carried out by Americans over the last year, Bob. Last year around this time, we had less than a handful of Iraqi units, army units, that were actually in the lead providing security around the country. Today, we have two Iraqi divisions, 16--15 Iraqi brigades and over 60 Iraqi battalions that are in the lead. And this process is continuing to go forward. We think by the end of the summer, some 75 percent of the Iraqi brigades will be in the lead, and we think by the end of the year almost all the Iraqi divisions will be capable of
leading.  Now if I could, what I mean by in the lead doesn't mean that they're able to operate independently. It means that they can operate with our transition team support and with our enabling support. Logistics, intelligence, medical evacuation, those kinds of things. But they are the ones that are directing the fight with our support, and that's a very good thing. On the police side, the development continues, but I think you know there are greater challenges with the police because they are recruited locally and often their loyalties are more toward a local leader than it is to the chief of police. And that is problematic for us, and they are more vulnerable to infiltration by militias. And so we will work--we will work very hard with the new minister of interior to address that challenge.

SCHIEFFER: General, when can you start to bring American troops out of there?  When is it going to be to the point that you can begin to do that? Again, I'm not asking you for a deadline here, I'm just asking in a general sense, when do you think you can start drawing down American forces in--in Iraq?

Gen. CASEY: Bob, we started drawing down American forces last December. Right before Christmas, we announced that we were not going to bring two brigades into Iraq and we--that's--that was about 7500 soldiers that didn't come in. And then our--I've gone from about 160,000 US forces here at, at around the time of the election down to under 130,000 now.  And as I've said several times, that I will make assessments periodically, and I was waiting until we got a government seated before I gave the president another recommendation, that we have some sense of what we've got. And so, we've already begun, and I think as long as the Iraqi security forces continue to progress and as long as this national unity government continues to operate that way and move the country forward, I think we're going to be able to see continued gradual reductions of coalition forces over the coming the months and into next year.

- U.S. General George Casey, commander of the multinational force in Iraq, CBS News, FACE THE NATION, June 11, 2006

source:  http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/face_061106.pdf

©MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc.


Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues. In the weeks ahead, violence in Iraq may escalate. The terrorists and insurgents will seek to prove that they can carry on without Zarqawi. And Coalition and Iraqi forces are seizing this moment to strike the enemies of freedom in Iraq at this time of uncertainty for their cause. The work ahead will require more sacrifice and the continued patience of the American people.

I'm encouraged by Prime Minister Maliki's determination to defeat our common enemies and bring security and rule of law to all Iraqis. This week he took another major step toward this objective when he completed the formation of his cabinet -- naming a new Minister of Defense, a new Minister of the Interior, and a new Minister of State for National Security. These new leaders will help the government address its top priorities: reconciliation, reconstruction, and putting an end to the kidnappings, beheadings, and suicide bombings.

As they pursue these goals, they will have America's full support. On Monday, I will convene my national security team and other key members of my Cabinet at Camp David to discuss the way ahead in Iraq. On Tuesday, Iraq's new Ambassador to the United States will join us, and we will have a teleconference discussion with Prime Minister Maliki and members of his cabinet. Together we will determine how to best deploy America's resources in Iraq and achieve our shared goal of an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.

There's still difficult work ahead in Iraq. Yet this week, the ideology of terror has suffered a severe blow. Al Qaida has lost its leader in Iraq, the Iraqi people have completed a democratic government that is determined to defend them, and freedom has achieved a great victory in the heart of the Middle East.

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, June 10, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/06/20060610.html


SCHIEFFER: Talking about moving those new troops in, I would just note that on the very day that the Pentagon was planning to move those troops in, General Casey was telling Harry Smith of "The Early Show" that we were going to draw down troops. He didn't get around to mentioning that part. Do you think there is any way that American troop levels can be reduced this year, Madame Secretary?

Dr. RICE: Well, it's very clear that Iraqis are getting better and they're taking more of the fight. It's also very clear that they're taking large portions of territory. But as the president has said many times, whatever is going to happen with American troop levels is going to relate directly to what's going on on the ground. And therefore, when General Casey felt that he needed to reinforce Anbar--and indeed, even before there, some hundreds of forces had gone into Baghdad to--to deal with the new security plan for Baghdad. When General Casey has needed and wanted to do that, he's been
supported in the Pentagon and he's been supported by the president. So these are decisions that will be made on the ground. But as Iraqi forces get better--and they are getting better, they are taking more of the fight--American forces will clearly have fewer responsibilities and ultimately be able to come out.

SCHIEFFER: But you're not prepared to say this morning when they will be better, when that's going to happen.

Dr. RICE: It's all got to be conditions-based. It--it's also a case, Bob, that we have a new prime minister and we need to sit with that prime minister and his team and talk about what security challenges there are and who is going to play what part in meeting those security challenges. And so any talk about what American forces would look like at any point in time, I think, has to await a discussion with the Iraqi leadership.

- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, CBS News, FACE THE NATION, June 4, 2006

source:  http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/face_060406.pdf

©MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc.


Today, at the start of a new century, we are again engaged in a war unlike any our nation has fought before -- and like Americans in Truman's day, we are laying the foundations for victory.  The enemies we face today are different in many ways from the enemy we faced in the Cold War. In the Cold War, we deterred Soviet aggression through a policy of mutually assured destruction. Unlike the Soviet Union, the terrorist enemies we face today hide in caves and shadows -- and emerge to attack free nations from within. The terrorists have no borders to protect, or capital to defend. They cannot be deterred -- but they will be defeated.  America will fight the terrorists on every battlefront, and we will not rest until this threat to our country has been removed.

While there are real differences between today's war and the Cold War, there are also many important similarities. Like the Cold War, we are fighting the followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom, crushes all dissent, has territorial ambitions, and pursues totalitarian aims. Like the Cold War, our enemies are dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and lack the resolve to defend our way of life. Like the Cold War, our enemies believe that the innocent can be murdered to serve a political vision. And like the Cold War, they're seeking weapons of mass murder that would allow them to deliver catastrophic destruction to our country. If our enemies succeed in acquiring such weapons, they will not hesitate to use them, which means they would pose a threat to America as great as the Soviet Union.

Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory.

Like previous generations, history has once again called America to great responsibilities, and we're answering history's call with confidence. We're confronting new dangers with new determination, and laying the foundations for victory in the war on terror.

...

Now the Class of 2006 will enter the great struggle -- and the final outcome depends on your leadership. The war began on my watch -- but it's going to end on your watch.  Your generation will bring us victory in the war on terror. My call to you is this: Trust in the power of freedom, and be bold in freedom's defense. Show leadership and courage -- and not just on the battlefield. Take risk, try new things, and challenge the established way of doing things. Trust in your convictions, stay true to yourselves -- and one day the world will celebrate your achievements.

- George W. Bush, Commencement Address at the United States Military Academy at West Point, May 27, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/20060527-1.html


The formation of a democratic government in Iraq marks a victory for the cause of freedom in the Middle East. It is a victory for millions of Iraqis who defied the terrorists and cast their ballots in three elections last year. It is a victory for the Iraqi Security Forces, who fought and bled for this moment, and now have a democracy worthy of their sacrifice. And it is a victory for the American, British, and other coalition forces who removed a murderous dictator who threatened the world. Because of their courage and sacrifices, Iraq has a free government that will be a strong and capable ally in the global war on terror.

The new government in Iraq is also a defeat for the terrorists, who fought the arrival of a free and democratic Iraq with all the hateful power they could muster. Now, a day that they feared has arrived. The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom. We can expect the terrorists to continue bombing and killing, but something fundamental has changed: The terrorists are now fighting a free and constitutional government. They are at war with the people of Iraq. The Iraqi people and their new leaders are determined to defeat this enemy, and so is the United States of America.

This Memorial Day weekend, we remember First Lieutenant Seidel and the brave Americans of every generation who have given their lives for freedom, liberated the oppressed, and left the world a safer and better place. And the best way to honor America's fallen heroes is to carry on their fight, defend our freedom, and complete the mission for which they gave their lives.

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, May 27, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/20060527.html


 But not everything since liberation has turned out as the way we had expected or hoped. We've learned from our mistakes, adjusted our methods, and have built on our successes. From changing the way we train the Iraqi security forces to rethinking the way we do reconstruction, our commanders and our diplomats in Iraq are constantly adapting to the realities on the ground. We've adapted our tactics, yet the heart of our strategy remains the same: to support the emergence of a free Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.

All our efforts over the past three years have been aimed towards this goal. This past weekend, the world watched as Iraqis stood up a free and democratic government in the heart of the Middle East. With our help, Iraq will be a powerful force for good in a troubled region, and a steadfast ally in the war on terror.

With the emergence of this government, something fundamental changed in Iraq last weekend. While we can expect more violence in the days and weeks ahead, the terrorists are now fighting a free and constitutional government. They're at war with the people of Iraq, and the Iraqi people are determined to defeat this enemy, and so are Iraq's new leaders, and so are the United States and Great Britain.

It is vital that Iraq's new government seize this opportunity to heal old wounds and set aside sectarian differences and move forward as one nation. As Prime Minister Maliki has made his priorities clear, we have learned they're the right priorities. He's said he will focus on improving the security situation in Baghdad and other parts of the country. He has declared he will use maximum force to defeat the terrorists. He's vowed to eliminate illegal militias and armed gangs. He wants to accelerate the training of the Iraqi security forces so they can take responsibility from coalition forces for security throughout Iraq. He wants to improve health care and housing and jobs, so the benefits of a free society will reach every Iraqi citizen.

Our coalition will seize this moment, as well. I look forward for continued in-depth discussions with Tony Blair, so we can develop the best approach in helping the new Iraqi government achieve its objectives. The new government of Iraq will have the full support of our two countries and our coalition, and we will work to engage other nations around the world to ensure that constitutional democracy in Iraq succeeds and the terrorists are defeated.

...

Q Mr. President, Pentagon officials have talked about prospects for reducing American forces in Iraq to about 100,000 by year's end. Does the formation of a unity government in Iraq put you on a sound footing to achieve that number?

And Mr. Prime Minister, is it realistic to think that Iraqi forces will be able to take control of all Iraq by the end of next year as Mr. Malaki suggests?

PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, we're going to work with our partners in Iraq, the new government, to determine the best way forward in achieving an objective, which is an Iraq that can govern itself and sustain itself and defend itself.

I have said to the American people, as the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down. But I've also said that our commanders on the ground will make that decision. And I have -- we'll talk to General Casey once he is -- conferred with the new government of Iraq. They don't have a defense minister yet; they're in the process of getting a defense minister. So it probably makes a lot of sense for our commander on the ground to wait until their defense structure is set up before we discuss with them, and he with me, the force levels necessary to achieve our objective.

Q So the 100,000 --

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's some speculation in the press that I -- they haven't talked to me about. And as the Commander-in-Chief, they eventually will talk to me about it. But the American people need to know that we'll keep the force level there necessary to win. And it's important for the American people to know that politics isn't going to make the decision as to the size of our force level. The conditions on the ground will make the decision. And part of the conditions on the ground, Terry, is a new government, and we believe the new government is going to make a big difference in the lives of the Iraqi people.

I told you earlier that when you attack an Iraqi now, you're at war with an Iraqi government that's constitutionally elected. And that's a different attitude from the way it's been in the past.

...

Q Mr. President, you have said time and time again, and again tonight, when Iraqi forces stand up, coalition forces can start standing down.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Right.

Q But the fact is, you have been standing up Iraqi forces in great numbers. The administration says you have hundreds of thousand trained and equipped, tens of thousand leading the fight. And yet, during the same period they've been standing up there has not been a substantial decrease in U.S. and coalition forces. So what does that tell us about how meaningful the figures are on Iraqi troops? And what does that tell us about a potential for a draw-down?

PRESIDENT BUSH: It tells you that the commanders on the ground are going to make the decision, that's what that tells you. And when they feel comfortable in recommending to me fewer troops, I will accept that. But they're going to make that recommendation based upon the conditions on the ground. I know I keep saying that, and it probably bores you that I keep giving the same answer, but I haven't changed my opinion.

I talk to our commanders all the time. They feel strongly that the Iraqi army is getting better. It's hard to have a command and control system with an Iraqi army when you don't have a defense minister. And so Mr. Maliki is going to have to pick one soon. And then our commanders will gauge as to whether or not the command and control structure is sufficient to be able to enable the Iraqis to take more of the fight. They are taking more of the fight, by the way. They're in more provinces than ever before. They're taking over more territory. They're taking over more missions. There are some gaps that we need to continue to work on to fill -- the transportation issue is going to need to be dealt with over time.

All I can report to you is what General Casey -- in whom I have got a lot of confidence -- tells me, and that is the Iraqis are becoming better and better fighters. And at some point in time, when he feels like the government is ready to take on more responsibility and the Iraqi forces are able to help them do so, he will get on the telephone with me and say, Mr. President, I think we can do this with fewer troops. We've been up to 165,000 at one point; we're at about 135,000 now.

Q (Inaudible.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on for a second. Actually, he moved some additional troops from Kuwait into Baghdad. Conditions on the ground were such that we needed more support in Baghdad, to secure Baghdad, so he informed me, through Donald Rumsfeld, that he wanted to move troops out of Kuwait into Baghdad.

So these commanders, they need to have flexibility in order to achieve the objective. You don't want politicians making decisions based upon politics. You want the Commander-in-Chief making decisions based upon what the military thinks is the right way to achieve the objective. I've set the objective, it's clear for everybody -- a country that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself. And we're making progress on all fronts. But as to how many troops we have there will depend upon the generals and their commanders saying, this is what we need to do the job, Mr. President, and that's the way it's going to be so long as I'm standing here as the Commander-in-Chief, which is two-and-a-half more years.

...

PRESIDENT BUSH: One thing, Martha, is that we want to make sure we complete the mission, that we achieve our objective. A loss in Iraq would make this world an incredibly dangerous place. Remember there is not only sectarian violence, a hangover from Saddam's era, but there is an al Qaeda presence, in the form of Zarqawi, who wants to sow as much havoc as possible to cause us to leave before the mission is complete.

Listen, I want our troops out, don't get me wrong. I understand what it means to have troops in harm's way. And I know there's a lot of families making huge sacrifices here in America. I'll be going to a Memorial Day ceremony next Monday paying tribute to those who have lost their life. I'm sure I will see families of the fallen. I fully understand the pressures being placed upon our military and their families. But I also understand that it is vital that we -- that we do the job, that we complete the mission. And it has been tough, it's been really tough, because we're fighting an unconventional enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. There are no rules of war for these people. But make no mistake about it, what you're seeing in Iraq could happen all over the world if we don't stand fast and achieve the objective.

...

Q Perhaps I can change the mood. Mr. President, you talk about setting the objective. But our people, my colleagues on the ground in Iraq, say that when they talk to American troops, the rank and file, they say they don't believe that they've had enough to do the job. They say further that while the Iraqi army may be improving, there is absolutely no way to depend upon the police, who they say are corrupt and aligned with militias. All of this going on -- what reason is there to believe that the new government can do any better with these people than we've been able to do so far?

PRESIDENT BUSH: There are several tracks, Bill. One is the political track. I think it's very important for the Iraqi people to have a government that has been elected under a constitution they approved. In other words, the political track has been a vital part of having a country that can govern itself and defend itself.

There's a security track. And there's no question that there are a lot of Iraqis trained to fight, and many of them are good fighters -- 117,000 have been trained and equipped. There needs to be more equipment; no question about that. The Iraqis -- I think if you were get a -- at least the assessment I get, is that the Iraqi army is moving well along and they're taking more and more of the territory over in order to defend their country.

No question we've got a lot of work to do on the police. General Casey has said publicly that the year 2006 is -- is the year that we'll train the police up and running. Perhaps the place where there needs to be the most effective police force is in Baghdad. I just told you we're moving more troops in. There's a -- General Casey met today with the Prime Minister to talk about how to secure Baghdad. It's really important that Baghdad -- that a capital city become more secure. And there's plans to deal with the contingencies on the ground. All I can tell you is, is that we're making progress toward the goal.

- George W. Bush, Press Conference, May 25, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/20060525-12.html


KING: What's your read on the Bush-Blair visit?

RUMSFELD: Well, they're close associates. They respect each other. And Prime Minister Blair has, of course, just been in Iraq and wanted to come and visit with the president. And they will have some talks, and they'll have a press conference and discuss the way ahead. They're both very pleased with the progress that's being made with respect to the new government, the prime minister designate, Maliki.

KING: We taped this before the press conference this afternoon here at the Pentagon. But you don't imagine they were making any big announcements of any special kind, rumors of troop withdrawals?

RUMSFELD: No. They're not going to make a big announcement on troop withdrawals. And the reason is obvious. The reason is that the new government has not yet been put in place in terms of the minister of defense or the minister of interior.

When they are in place, they will then get briefed up by General Casey and his people. And then they will begin the discussions about how we can continue to transfer over responsibility for the security aspects of the government's job.

KING: How close are we to bringing a number back?

RUMSFELD: Well, we had hit a high of 160,000, and we're now down to 130,000. We have gone back up from time to time when there was an event, for example, the elections in December. We beefed up some of the forces.

But the Iraqi security forces are now over 263,000, you know. They've passed a quarter of a million security forces. And they're gaining more experience all the time. They're better equipped all the time.

They're taking over more responsibility every week, every month. And we feel very good about their progress, particularly in the ministry of defense forces, as opposed to the ministry of interior.

KING: So can you say maybe mid-2007 a lot will be coming back?

RUMSFELD: Oh, you know, once you start doing that, then you're stuck with a number, a date, and it just doesn't do any good. It's based on conditions on the ground. There's no question that it's our desire to reduce the forces and we intend to and the Iraqis intend for us to.

And the question is what -- at what pace can we continue to go up towards the 325,000 Iraqi security force target goal and what's the intensity of the insurgency and how fast can they take over that responsibility? As far as we're concerned, the faster the better and I'm sure that's the case of the Iraqi people.

...

KING: We're back with Secretary Rumsfeld. Retired General Barry McCaffrey, I want to get it right, spent time interviewing top U.S. and Iraqi officers and the memo saying in part, "We need at least two to five more years of U.S. partnership and combat back up to get the Iraqi army ready to stand on its own." That long?

RUMSFELD: I don't know. He just came back. He was over there, spent a lot of time, issued a report that I found interesting. I read it, sent it over to the president. I'm sure the president read it. He had a lot of positive things and some concerns which is -- that's about what happens when you visit over there as I did last month with Condi Rice when we went over to meet with the new government leadership.

But it's hard to tell. It depends on, for example, so many variables that no one can know the answer to. What's going to be the behavior of the Syrians? What's going to be the behavior of the Iranians? How much difficulty are they going to cause in Iraq?

How successful will Zarqawi and those people be in raising money? To what extent will the international community lean forward and help Iraq and be supportive?

This is not a security problem only. It is a governance problem and as that government gets in place, if they engage in a reconciliation process that is successful and bring people in to support that government then I think that the future will be much brighter.

KING: The president talks about United States troops standing down and Iraqi forces standing up. What does that mean?

RUMSFELD: Well, it means that as we go through each week, month, we now have either closed or passed over 30 bases to the Iraqis, 30 locations to the Iraqi security forces.

In the January election a year ago, our security forces were very much involved. In the October referendum, the Iraqi security forces were in the lead and we were kind of in the back. And in the December election we were very much in the back and the Iraqi security forces for all practical purposes provided the security.

Now, what it means is as the Iraqi security forces can take over those responsibilities, we will continue to pass them over to them and leave -- be able to reduce down coalition forces.

KING: If the new Iraqi leadership said go would we go?

RUMSFELD: Oh, they're a sovereign country, I mean but they're not going to say that. They've already -- Maliki has already said that he looks out and he sees a year and a half or something like that.

So everyone has a somewhat different view but what we're going to do is engage in discussions with the new government and come to some understandings at the pace at which we think we can pass over responsibility to them.

...

KING: Who will ultimately decide when Iraq is ready to handle their own security? Will you make that decision? Will you tell them they're ready?

RUMSFELD: It will be General Casey will meet with the government and Ambassador Khalilzad and they will discuss the situation and then lay out a plan going forward and ultimately the president of the United States is going to decide at what pace U.S. forces come home.

KING: Do you envision -- we said before about 2007 you don't like to put a timetable on it, but in your own thinking is it sooner rather than later?

RUMSFELD: You know, I've been around so long and I've watched people put timetables on things and tell you when a war was going to end and how much it was going to cost and how many people would die. They have all been wrong. Why? Because they're so many variables involved; you simply cannot do that and I mentioned three or four of the variables in the case of Iraq.

The Iraqis would like us to come home. We would like to have our troops come home. Our troops would like to come home.

KING: So?

RUMSFELD: And the question is we all agree that the last thing we want to do is to come home prematurely, toss in the towel and turn that country over to the terrorists. It would be terrible consequences for our country, for the American people, for that region and that's not an acceptable outcome. Quitting is not an exit strategy.

KING: No matter what public opinion says or anything?

RUMSFELD: Well, public opinion -- the American people are going to figure this out.

- CNN LARRY KING LIVE, Interview With Donald Rumsfeld, Aired May 25, 2006

source:  http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0605/25/lkl.01.html

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP


A battlefront in the war on terror is, of course, Iraq. And people in our country are unsettled because of the war, and I understand that. I fully understand why people in America are disquieted about what they're seeing on their TV screens. There's a concern about whether or not we can win. There's no doubt in my mind we will win. And our objective is to have an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself, an ally in the war on terror, and an example for others in a region that is desperate for freedom.

The enemy cannot defeat us on the battlefield, but what they can do is put horrible images on our TV screens. And it's really important for those who wear our uniform, and the enemy, and the people of Iraq to know that the United States of America will complete the mission, and in so doing, will make our country more secure and will be laying the foundation for peace.

- George W. Bush, President Attends Pennsylvania Congressional Victory Committee Dinner, May 24, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/20060524-9.html


BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi troops will be able to handle security in all 18 provinces by the end of 2007 with additional training and equipment, the country's new prime minister said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki offered that forecast during a meeting with Denmark's prime minister, according to a statement from the Iraqi leader's office.

It is the second time in a week that al-Maliki has discussed a timeline for the handover of security responsibilities to Iraqi troops -- a development that President Bush has said would enable U.S. troops to leave.

With more training and better equipment "our security forces will be capable of taking over the security portfolio in all Iraqi provinces within one year and a half," al-Maliki said during the meeting with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Denmark has about 500 troops in Iraq, based in the south.

More than 130,000 U.S. troops and more than 7,000 British troops remain in Iraq to provide security for al-Maliki's fledgling government, the first permanent administration since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

During a joint appearance with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday, al-Maliki said his government could take over security for 16 of Iraq's 18 provinces by the end of this year. The exceptions were Baghdad and the sprawling western province of Anbar, where U.S. troops are battling a stubborn insurgency.

The conflict has become increasingly unpopular in both Britain and the United States, where solid majorities of Americans in published polls say they disapprove of Bush's management of the war.

Blair is scheduled to meet with Bush on Thursday in Washington, and the president said Wednesday that U.S. commanders will be making "a new assessment" of the need for American troops now that the permanent government led by al-Maliki has taken power.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Tuesday that the three remaining Cabinet positions -- Defense, Interior and National Security -- would be filled by al-Maliki within a few days. But he acknowledged "there is a challenge in getting the right ministers" for the sensitive posts.

White House spokesman Tony Snow tried to dampen expectations that Bush and Blair would announce any troop withdrawals, but he said U.S. and allied troops would increasingly take on a supporting role for Iraqi forces.

"I do not believe that you're going to hear the president or the prime minister say we're going to be out in one year, two years, four years," Snow said.

- "PM: Iraqi troops battle ready in 2007", CNN, May 24, 2006

source:  http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/05/24/iraq.main/index.html

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP


British troops face up to four more years of service in Iraq, as the country's newly-elected government struggles to establish territorial control. The grim admission that soldiers' lives could still be at risk in Basra in 2010 was made privately by a senior official during a surprise six- hour visit by Tony Blair to Baghdad yesterday.

The Prime Minister was the first Western leader to arrive in the Iraqi capital in what was a public show of solidarity with the new Iraqi leader, Nouri Kamil al-Maliki. Mr Blair declared the formation of the country's first elected administration to be a "new beginning" for Iraq.

But, as the level of inter-ethnic strife continues to rise across the country, it has emerged that the prospect of a swift withdrawal of all 7,200 British troops is negligible. Senior officials travelling with the Prime Minister indicated that 2010 could be the target date for ending Britain's peacekeeping role. Even after that date, military personnel could still be in Iraq helping advise and train government forces.

One senior member of Mr Blair's entourage said: "My guess is that during the next four years the present role and structure of the multinational force will change. We might well need the multinational force to continue in the Green Zone in a training or development role, but the sort of scale of force that we have today will change over that four year period.

"If the judgement is that the province is reasonably secure and calm then we should be able to withdraw."
The UK holds four out of Iraq's 18 provinces. Maysan and Muthanna provinces are relatively free of insurgency and sectarian violence, giving rise to the hope that British troops stationed there can be pulled out during the summer. But withdrawal from the other British held provinces, Basra and Dhi Kar, is expected to take far longer.

The issue of how and when the multinational force can leave was a major item in the private talks yesterday in Mr Maliki's Baghdad office. Afterwards, the two Prime Ministers issued an upbeat statement saying: "The Iraqi Prime Minister said that his Government will, in the weeks ahead, work with the multinational force on the details of the transition to Iraqi control."

- Four more years: UK troops to stay in Iraq until 2010, By Andy McSmith, in Baghdad, Published: 23 May 2006

source:  http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article570218.ece

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited


MR. RUSSERT: With this new prime minister, this new government, will there now be significant reductions of American troops by this fall?

DR. RICE: Well, we are going to sit with the prime minister and his team and make a determination on how the security situation is going to best be addressed. But clearly larger numbers of Iraqis are being trained, clearly they’re taking on more security responsibility. And it has always been the plan that as they take these responsibilities, we will have less to do. I think it’s already the case that we spend a great deal more of our time on training, but there are still some difficult places to deal with, and we want to make sure that we have the forces there that are needed. That’s why the president talks about conditioned-based withdrawals.

MR. RUSSERT: But you’re optimistic we’ll be able to have some withdrawals by this year?

DR. RICE: Well, I’m, I’m optimistic that the Iraqis are taking more security responsibility and are better trained. I, I think it would be premature before we’ve had a chance to talk with the new Iraqi government to start talking about precisely what’s going to happen in terms of our own forces.

- U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Meet The Press, May 21, 2006

source:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12851815/

© 2006 MSNBC.com


BAGHDAD (AFP) - US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad welcomed the inauguration of the new Iraqi government and predicted that it could lead to a reduction in US troop levels in Iraq.

"With the political change that has taken place, with the emphasis on unity and reconciliation, with effective ministers, with associated activities, conditions are likely to move in the right direction and that would allow adjustments in terms of the size composition and mission of our forces," he said.

The ambassador, speaking to journalists following the inauguration, anticipated that further cuts would be possible if "things move in the right direction".

"Strategically we are going to be moving in the direction of downsizing our forces," he said, making allowances for minor tactical adjustments in either direction.

"Fundamentally, the country is now on the right track with the participation of all communities in Iraq," he said.

- "Iraq government could bring US troop levels down: envoy" , AFP, Sat May 20, 2006

source:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060520/ts_alt_afp/iraqpoliticsuskhalilzad_060520153816

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse.


Rep. John Murtha, a Vietnam veteran first elected in the anti-war fever of 1974, says American troops will be brought home from Iraq by 2007.

...

Murtha said he thinks President Bush would have to bring more than half the troops in Iraq back to the United States before election day for it to start to make a difference to voters.

"If that happens, he would have to admit he made mistakes," Murtha said. "The biggest problem he has had is admitting he made a mistake in going in there in the first place."

 -Murtha predicts U.S. pullout from Iraq, By KIMBERLY HEFLING, ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER, May 11, 2006

source:  http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1153AP_Murtha_Interview.html

©1996-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer


The new Iraqi army is "real, growing and willing to fight," but lacks basic equipment and will need up to five more years before it can wage war without U.S. military help, says a new report by a retired four-star general who toured Iraq in April.

Perhaps just as important, Sunni Muslims -- the minority sect who dominated Iraq under dictator Saddam Hussein but now find themselves at a political disadvantage -- are joining the army in large numbers, reports retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey in a seven-page memo written for his colleagues at the U.S. Military Academy.

Gen. McCaffrey also warns that "there is a rapidly growing animosity" among U.S. troops toward the press.
"The reason it bothers me is shades of Vietnam," Gen. McCaffrey said in an interview. "It took my generation 20 years to get over Vietnam, the sense that the press had been against us as soldiers."

Much of his April 25 memo focuses on the Iraqi army and police.

"The battalion-level formation are in many cases excellent. Most are adequate," Gen. McCaffrey says. "However, they are very badly equipped with only a few light vehicles, small arms, most with body armor and one or two uniforms. They have almost no mortars, heavy machine guns, decent communications equipment, artillery, armor, or [Iraqi] air transport, helicopter and strike support."

The assessment from Gen. McCaffrey -- a Vietnam combat veteran, division commander in Desert Storm and President Clinton's counterdrug czar -- is more evidence that Iraq's 250,000-strong security force, which includes the army, is much improved compared with 18 months ago.

The U.S. has sunk $8.7 billion to date into building the Iraqi force and has embedded teams of seasoned American officers and noncommissioned officers to guide newly created battalions.

"This is simply a brilliant success story," Gen. McCaffrey writes. "We need at least two to five more years of U.S. partnership and combat backup to get the Iraqi army ready to stand on its own. The interpersonal relationships between Iraqi army units and their U.S. trainers are very positive and genuine."

...

"The police are heavily infiltrated by both the [anti-Iraq forces] and the Shia militia," Gen. McCaffrey says, predicting a turnaround will take 10 years. "They are widely distrusted by the Sunni population. They are incapable of confronting local armed groups. They inherited a culture of inaction, passivity, human rights abuses and deep corruption."

"General says Iraq army is 'willing,' but not ready" By Rowan Scarborough, THE WASHINGTON TIMES, May 3, 2006

source:  http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20060502-110459-2311r.htm

Copyright © 2006 News World Communications, Inc.

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This new government is going to represent a new start for the Iraqi people. It's a government that understands they've got serious challenges ahead of them. And the three leaders spoke to Secretary Rice and Secretary Rumsfeld about their need to deploy the growing strength of the Iraqi security forces in such a way as to defeat the terrorists and the insurgents. And we will continue to support them in that effort. That they talked about the need to establish control over the militias and other unauthorized armed groups and enforce the rule of law. And we will support them in these efforts to achieve that important objective.

They talked about the need to rebuild infrastructure and strengthen their economy, and we agree with that assessment.

And, finally, they talked about the need to make sure that all Iraqis share in the benefits of this new democracy. A new Iraqi government represents a strategic opportunity for America -- and the whole world, for that matter. This nation of ours and our coalition partners are going to work with the new leadership to strengthen our mutual efforts to achieve success, a victory in this war on terror. This is a -- we believe this is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens, and it's a new chapter in our partnership.

The Secretaries began building this new partnership during their trip. In other words, the Iraqi leaders saw that we are committed to helping them succeed. They need to know that we stand with them. And the Iraqi people need to know that we stand with them, that we understand the strategic importance of a free Iraq in the Middle East, and that we understand the need to deny safe haven to the terrorists who have caused such turmoil and havoc inside of Iraq.

There's going to be more tough days ahead. These Secretaries know that, they're realistic people. They have brought an assessment of what they saw on the ground, and some of it's positive and, obviously, there's some difficult days ahead because there's still terrorists there who are willing to take innocent life in order to stop the progress of democracy. But this government is more determined than ever to succeed, and we believe we've got partners to help the Iraqi people realize their dreams.

Last December the Iraqi people voted to have a free government. I know it seems like a long time ago for the American people. But what we have begun to see now is the emergence of a unity government to represent the wishes of the Iraqi people. Last December millions of people defied the terrorists and killers, and said, we want to be free, we want a unity government. And now what has happened is, after compromise and politics, the Iraqis have come together to form that government. And our Secretaries went over there to tell them that we look forward to working with them as partners in peace.

So I want to thank you all for going. I appreciate your dedication to the cause of peace. Thank you.

- George W. Bush, President Discusses Recent Visit to Iraq by Secretary of State Rice and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, May 1, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/20060501.html

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AMERICAN troops will probably be gone from Iraq by mid-2008 as the Iraqi forces they are training take over from them, Iraq's national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie said.

He expected the 133,000 US troops to be cut to less than 100,000 by the end of the year and an "overwhelming majority" to have left by the end of 2007 under a US-Iraqi plan for progressively handing over security. "We have a road map, a condition-based agreement where, by the end of this year, the number of coalition forces will probably be less than 100,000," he said on Friday.

"By the end of next year the overwhelming majority of coalition forces would have left the country and probably by the middle of 2008 there will be no foreign soldiers in the country."

- US troops in Iraq 'home by 2008', By Ibon Villelabeitia, Baghdad, April 30, 2006

source:  http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/us-troops-in-iraq-home-by-2008/2006/04/29/1146198390632.html

Copyright © 2006. The Age Company Ltd.

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Last weekend, the people of Iraq formed a national unity government. This is an important milestone on the road to democracy in Iraq, and it marks the beginning of a new chapter in America's involvement. Last Sunday, I talked to the President, Prime Minister-designate, and Speaker of the new government. And this week, I sent Secretary of State Rice and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to Baghdad to meet face-to-face with the new Iraqi leadership. We've all been impressed by the Iraqi leaders' commitment to maintain the unity of their country and effectively represent the Iraqi people.

The new Iraqi government will face many challenges. Iraqi leaders agree that the new government must continue to build up the Iraqi Security Forces to defeat the terrorists and must establish control over militias. They also agree that the new government must rebuild critical infrastructure, strengthen the Iraqi economy, and ensure that all Iraqis benefit as their nation grows in security and prosperity.

During their meetings in Baghdad, Secretaries Rice and Rumsfeld made clear that Iraq will have the continued support of America and our coalition partners, as we begin the new chapter in our relationship. We will help the new Iraqi government assume growing responsibility for the nation's security. And as Iraqis continue to make progress toward a democracy that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, more of our troops can come home with the honor they have earned.

The terrorists clearly recognize the threat that the new unity government poses to their dark plans for Iraq and the broader Middle East. This week the terrorist Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, released a video in which he denounced the new government and promised further acts of terrorist violence. Zarqawi lashed out at what he called "this rotten play of democracy" and declared that Iraq's new government will become "a poisoned dagger" in the heart of his plans for the Muslim world.

On Wednesday, Iraq's leaders united to strongly condemn Zarqawi's statements. One Iraqi official declared that the terrorists and insurgents, quote, "are feeling this might be the last chance they have to survive. They're fighting everyone in Iraq -- every Iraqi. I think that shows how weak they are." End quote. A newly appointed first Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi parliament said that Zarqawi fears the new government will unify Shiites and Sunnis and Kurds. He said, quote, "I believe that Zarqawi was caught off guard by the new government taking shape because it will be a very strong one representing all Iraqis." End quote.

The new leaders of Iraq are showing great courage in the face of terrorist threats. In recent weeks, terrorists have assassinated three siblings of top Iraqi politicians -- but the new leaders of Iraq remain determined to lead their nation toward a future of democracy and peace. These brave leaders deserve our continued support -- and I have told them they can count on America to stand with them.

The enemy is resorting to desperate acts of violence because they know the establishment of democracy in Iraq will be a double defeat for them. First, it will deny the terrorists their immediate aim of turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban -- a safe haven where they can plot and plan more attacks against free nations. Second, in the long term, a democratic Iraq will be a major blow to the terrorists' hateful ideology because it will send a powerful message across the region that the future of the Middle East belongs to freedom.

There will be more tough fighting ahead in Iraq and more days of sacrifice and struggle. Yet the enemies of freedom have suffered a real blow in recent days, and we have taken great strides on the march to victory. Iraq's leaders now have laid the foundations for a democratic government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. By helping the Iraqi people build their democracy, America will deal the terrorists a crippling blow and establish a beacon of liberty in the Middle East -- and that will make our Nation and the world more secure.

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, April 29, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/04/20060429.html

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Officials: U.S. hopes to pull 30,000 troops
Rumsfeld, Rice visit Iraq, encourage formation of government

Wednesday, April 26, 2006; Posted: 8:50 p.m. EDT (00:50 GMT)

 BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has tentative plans to reduce U.S. troops levels in Iraq by about 30,000 by the end of the year, senior military officials said Wednesday.

Casey said he is still on his "general timeline" for recommending further U.S. troop reductions.

The officials said that Casey is considering reducing troop levels from 15 brigades to about 10 brigades.

That would mean U.S. troop levels could be under 100,000 by year's end, officials said. About 160,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq in December, when security was tightened for the country's parliamentary elections. About 130,000 are in the country now.

Casey met Wednesday with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who along with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Baghdad on an unannounced mission to show support for Iraq's move toward a new government.

The visit came a day after al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi surfaced in a lengthy Web video scorning the coalition and the Iraqi government, and urging unity among militants.

Roadside bombings, a tactic seen almost daily in Iraq, killed four civilians and wounded 15 others in central Iraq on Wednesday.

After meeting with Casey, Rumsfeld told reporters that "the question of our forces' levels here will depend on conditions on the ground and discussions with the Iraqi government, which will evolve over time."

Military officials familiar with troop-level planning told CNN that reductions would happen by attrition: Some units would not be replaced when they rotate home later this year.

The officials said the U.S. plan is to consolidate forces at several large "super-bases," to lower their profile and move them out of the line of fire.

The possibility of reducing troops in Iraq comes as some retired top military generals are openly expressing dismay at the way the administration has been conducting the war.

source:  http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/04/26/iraq.main/index.html

© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP

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Today I -- this morning I was -- had three phone calls I think that you might find of interest. I spoke to the President of Iraq, the Speaker of the Iraqi Assembly, and the Prime Minister-designate. It was a remarkable phone call. First, they expressed their deep appreciation for the United States of America and our soldiers. They understand the sacrifices that you are making on their behalf, and they are grateful for those sacrifices. And the reason why they are is because they represent the 12 million people who went to the polls in the face of incredible terrorist threats, and said, we want to be free; we desire to live in a free society.

I told them -- I said that they have awesome responsibilities to their people. They have the responsibility of improving the lives of men and women, regardless of their religious status and nature; they have responsibilities to defeat the terrorists; they have a responsibility to unite their country, and I believe they will.

The formation of this government is an important milestone toward our victory in Iraq. A lot of times people ask me about my attitude about things, and here's my attitude -- the only way we can lose in Iraq is if we lose our nerve.  And I'm not losing my nerve, and I know that the United States Marine Corps will not lose their nerve, either.

Yesterday was an important day, but I recognize we still have more work to do. Democracy in Iraq will be a major blow for the terrorists who want to do us harm. Democracy in Iraq will deny them safe haven. Democracy in Iraq will set a powerful example for people in a part of the world who are desperate for freedom.

- George W. Bush, President Visits with Marine Corps and Navy Families in Twentynine Palms, California, April 23, 2006

source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/04/20060423-1.html

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The past three years since liberation, the Iraqi people have begun the difficult process of recovering from Saddam's repression. They're beginning to build a democracy on the rubble of his tyranny. They still face brutal and determined enemies: members of the deposed regime who dream of returning to power, other insurgents and foreign terrorists who dream of turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban -- a safe haven from which to plot and plan new attacks against America and our allies. The enemies of a free Iraq are determined to ignite a civil war, put the Iraqi people -- to pit the Iraqi people against one another, and to stop the country's democratic progress. Yet the Iraqi people are determined to live in freedom -- and America is determined to defeat the terrorists and we're determined to help the Iraqi people succeed.

America is doing its part to help the Iraqis build a democracy. Our nation can be proud of what our courageous men and women in uniform have accomplished in the past three years. Since liberation, our forces have captured or killed thousands of al Qaeda terrorists and other enemy fighters; we've freed Fallujah and Tal Afar and other Iraqi cities from the grip of the terrorists and the insurgents; we've trained Iraqi security forces so they increasingly can take the lead in the fight -- and eventually assume responsibility for the security of their country.

We have learned from our mistakes. We've adjusted our approach to meet the changing circumstances on the ground; we've adjusted depending upon the actions of the enemy. By pursuing a clear and flexible strategy in Iraq, we helped make it possible for Iraqis to choose their leaders and begin to assume the responsibilities of self-government and self-defense. In the past three years, our troops in Iraq have done everything expected of them, and more. They've brought freedom to Iraq, security to our country, and pride to the uniform -- and they have the gratitude of all Americans.

In the past three years, the Iraqi people have done their part. They defied death threats from the terrorists to cast ballots not one time, not twice, but three times -- and each election saw larger and broader turnout than the one that came before. Iraqis chose a transitional government, drafted the most progressive constitution in the Arab world, approved that constitution in a nationwide referendum, and voted for a new government under the new constitution. And in December elections for this government, despite the threats of violence and efforts to discourage Sunni participation, nearly 12 million Iraqis -- that's more than 75 percent of eligible voters -- turned out at the polls.

The Iraqi people have begun building a free society -- with a thriving free press, and hundreds of independent newspapers and magazines and talk radio shows where Iraqis openly debate the future course of their country. The Iraqi people have begun building a free economy -- with an independent central bank, and thousands of small businesses and a relatively stable currency. Iraqi people have stepped forward to fight for their freedom, as well. Despite repeated attacks on military and police recruiting stations, more than 250,000 Iraqis have volunteered to wear their country's uniform. These brave Iraqis are increasingly taking the lead in the fight against the terrorists and the insurgents. Today, there are more than 130 Iraqi Army and police combat battalions in the fight -- with more than 70 Iraqi battalions taking the lead. Iraqi units have assumed primary responsibility for more than 30,000 square miles of Iraq. We expect that Iraqi units will control more territory than the coalition by the end of 2006.

Iraqis are fighting bravely -- and many have given their lives in the battle for freedom for their country. And by their courage and sacrifice, the Iraqi soldiers and civilians have shown that they want to live in freedom -- and they're not going to let the terrorists take away their opportunity to live in a free society.

Now it's time for the Iraqi leaders to do their part and finish the job of forming a unity government. The people of Iraq have made their intentions clear. At great personal risk, they went to the polls to choose leaders in free elections. And now the leaders they've elected have a responsibility to come together to form a government that unifies all Iraqis. Secretary Rice was just in Baghdad, where she delivered a strong message from me: Iraq leaders need to rise to the moment, to put aside their personal agendas, and take charge of their destiny.

Iraqi leaders have taken some important steps forward. They have agreed to an agenda for the new government to take up once it assumes office -- including tough issues such as demobilization of the militias, protecting the rights of women, restoring Iraq's infrastructure, and building national institutions that will effectively represent all Iraqis. Iraqi leaders have also agreed to form a new national security council that includes all major political groups and representatives of the executive and legislative branches. And now they must take the next step and fill key leadership posts, so that a new government can begin its essential work.

I understand that putting aside differences to form a government is difficult. It was pretty hard for our country. Our first governing charter, the Articles of Confederation, failed, and it took us eight years before we adopted our Constitution and elected our first president under that Constitution. Iraqis are going to make mistakes, as well. They are undertaking a difficult process with little democratic experience and with the scars of nearly three decades of Saddam Hussein still fresh on their mind. Moving beyond past divisions to build a strong democracy requires strong leadership -- and now is the time for Iraqis to step up and show the leadership.

The Iraqi people have a right to expect it, and so do the American people. Americans have made great sacrifices to help Iraq get to this point. Iraqi voters risked their lives to go to the polls. Iraqi soldiers and police have given their time to make this moment possible. And so Americans and Iraqis alike are waiting and watching to see what this sacrifice will produce -- and we both expect results. In the words of one Iraqi newspaper, "The time has come for our politicians to save people from their suffering and crises. The Iraqi people are more sacred than government positions."

Forming a unity government is critical to defeating the terrorists and securing the peace. The terrorists and insurgents thrive in a political vacuum -- and the delay in forming a government is creating a vacuum that the terrorists and insurgents are working to exploit. The enemies of a free Iraq blew up the Golden Mosque in Samarra in the hope that this outrageous act would provoke reprisals and drag the nation into a civil war. This past Friday, suicide bombers blew up another Shia mosque in northern Baghdad. The longer Iraq's leaders delay in forming a unity government, the greater the risk that the terrorists and former regime elements will succeed in their efforts to foment division and to stop the progress of an Iraq democracy.

The terrorists know that the greatest threat to their aspirations is Iraqi self-government. And we know this from the terrorists' own words. In 2004, we intercepted a letter from Zarqawi to Osama bin Laden. In it, Zarqawi expressed his concern about "the gap that will emerge between us and the people of the land." He declared "democracy is coming." He went on to say, this will mean "suffocation" for the terrorists. Zarqawi laid out his strategy to stop democracy from taking root in Iraq. He wrote, "If we succeed in dragging the Shia into the arena of sectarian war, it will become possible to awaken the inattentive Sunnis as they feel imminent danger ... the only solution for us is to strike the religious, military, and other cadres among the Shia with blow after blow."

The advance of democracy is the terrorists' greatest fear. That's an interesting question, isn't it -- why would they fear democracy? What is it about freedom that frightens these killers? What is it about a liberty that causes these people to kill innocent women and children? To defeat them, Iraq needs a democratic government that represents all Iraq, that reins in illegal militias, and earns the trust and confidence of all Iraqi communities. When Iraqis have such a government to lead and unite them, they will be in a stronger position to defeat their enemies and secure the future with a free country. When Iraqis have a democratic government in place, it will be a major victory for the cause of freedom. It will be a major defeat for the terrorists' aspirations to dominate the region and advance their hateful vision.

Once a government is formed, the international community must also do its part to help this young democracy succeed. Iraq needs greater international support -- particularly from its Arab neighbors. Arab leaders need to recognize that the choice in Iraq is between democracy and terrorism, and there is no middle ground. Success of Iraqi democracy is in their vital interests -- because if the terrorists prevail in Iraq, they will target other Arab nations.

The broader international community has responsibilities as well. So far, other nations and international organizations have pledged more than $13 billion in assistance to Iraq. Iraqis are grateful for the promised aid -- and so is the United States. Yet many nations have been slow to make good on their commitments. I call on all governments that have pledged assistance to follow through with their promises as quickly as possible -- so that the people across the Middle East will see that democracy leads to a better life and a brighter future. The success of a free Iraq is in the interests of all free nations -- and none can afford to sit on the sidelines.

The formation of a unity government is a critical step -- but it's not going to bring an immediate end to the violence Americans are seeing on their TV screens. The terrorists are going to continue to spread chaos and carnage in Iraq, because they know the images of car bombs and beheadings horrify the American people. They know they can't defeat us on the battlefield -- and that the only way to win in Iraq is to break our will, and force us into an early retreat. Our enemies know what's at stake, and they are determined to stop the rise of a democratic Iraq -- and I am equally determined to stop them.

The decision to go to war is one of the most difficult a President can make. And in three years since our forces liberated Iraq, we've seen many contradictory images that are difficult for Americans to reconcile. On the one hand, we have seen images of great hope -- boys and girls back in school, and millions of Iraqis dipping their fingers in purple ink, or dancing in the streets, or celebrating their freedom. On the other hand, we have seen images of unimaginable despair -- bombs destroying hospitals, and hostages bound and executed. And this raises the question in the minds of many Americans -- which image will prevail? I'll give you my opinion: I believe that freedom will prevail in Iraq. I believe moms and dads everywhere want their children to grow up in safety and freedom. I believe freedom will prevail because the terrorists have nothing to offer the Iraqi people. I believe freedom will prevail because once people have tasted freedom, they will not accept a return to tyranny.

It's important for Americans to understand the stakes in Iraq. A free Iraq will be an ally in the war on terror. A free Iraq will be a partner in the struggle for peace and moderation in the Muslim world. A free Iraq will inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, and send a signal across the broader Middle East that the future belongs not to terrorism but to freedom. A free Iraq will show the power of liberty to change the world. And as the Middle East grows in liberty and prosperity and hope, the terrorists will lose their safe havens and recruits, and America and other free nations will be more secure.

Today Iraq is free and sovereign -- and that freedom and sovereignty has come at a great price. Because Americans and Iraqis and troops from 17 other nations gave up their own futures so the Iraqi people could have a future of freedom, this world is better off, because of their sacrifice. America will honor their sacrifice by completing the mission in Iraq -- and Iraqi leaders have a responsibility to the fallen as well. By working together, we'll build a future of freedom for both our people. We're laying the foundation of peace for generations to come.

- George W. Bush, President Bush Discusses Global War on Terror, April 10, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/04/20060410-1.html

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Iraq is now the central front on the war on terror. The war on terror is broader than Iraq, but Iraq is the key battlefield right now. And the enemy has made it so.

The advance of democracy frightens the totalitarians that oppose us. Mr. Zarqawi, who is there in Iraq, is al Qaeda. He's not Iraqi, by the way. He is there representing the al Qaeda network, trying to stop the advance of democracy. It's an interesting question, isn't it, why would somebody want to stop democracy -- like, what's wrong with democracy; Mister, why are you afraid of it? Are you threatened by the fact that people get to speak and you don't get to dictate? Are you threatened by the fact that people should be able to worship the Almighty freely? What about democracy that bothers -- I think it's a legitimate question we all ought to be asking.

But nevertheless, he's tough, and he's mean, and he'll kill innocent people in order to shake our will. They have stated, clearly stated -- they being al Qaeda -- that it's just a matter of time for the United States to lose its nerve. They recognize they cannot beat us on the battlefield, they cannot militarily defeat the United States of America, but they can affect our conscience. And I can understand why. Nobody likes to see violence on the TV screens. Nobody wants to see little children blown up when a U.S. soldier is trying to give them candy. Nobody likes to see innocent women die at the hands of suicide bombers. It breaks our heart.

The United States of America is an incredibly compassionate nation. We value human life, whether it be here at home, or whether it be abroad. It's one of the really noble features of our country, I think. Nobody likes to see that, and the enemy understands that, however. They know that if we lose our nerve and retreat from Iraq, they win.

We've got a strategy for victory in Iraq. It's important for you to know that victory will be achieved with a democracy that can sustain itself, a country that will be able to defend itself from those who will try to defeat democracy at home, a country that will be an ally in the war on terror, and a country that will deny al Qaeda and the enemies that face America the safe haven they want. Those are the four categories for victory. And they're clear, and our command structure and our diplomats in Iraq understand the definition of victory.

And we're moving that way, we're moving that way. We've got a plan to help rebuild Iraq. You know, when we first went in there -- by the way, every war plan or every plan is fine, until it meets the enemy. But you've got to adjust. You've got to be able to say on the ground, well, this is working, this isn't working. The enemy is not a -- they think differently, they make different decisions, they come up with different tactics to try to defeat us. And it's very important for us -- for me to say to our commanders and our diplomats, devise that strategy on the ground; keep adjusting, so that we achieve the victory that we want.

So when we first got into Iraq, we went with big rebuilding projects. You know, we're going to help them do this, and help them do that, big electricity projects. And the enemy blew them up. And so what we've done now is we've gone to a more rational strategy to provide money for local folks, including our military, to help smaller projects, but projects that are able to connect with the people on the ground. You know, jobs helps a lot, if you're trying to say, democracy is worth it.

Second aspect of our plan was to promote democracy. And I know four months in the way these news cycles work seems like a decade -- at least it does to me at times, you know? (Laughter.) Four months ago, 12 million people went to the polls. It was an amazing event, wasn't it, I mean, really think about it. You can project back to the amazement, surprise, exhilaration that happened when, given a chance to vote for the third time in one year, the Iraqi people having had suffered under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein said, I want to be free. That's what we want to be. That's what they said. Twelve million people, in the face of incredible threats and potential suicide bombers -- and ugly words coming out of those who fear democracy -- said, give me a chance. It was an amazing experience. It was a -- in my judgment, a moment that is historic.

Part of the task now is to say to the Iraqis -- leaders, the people said something, now you need to get -- you need to act. You need to get a unity government together. And that's what we're watching right now. It takes a while for people to overcome the effects of tyranny, and there's just a lot of politics happening in Iraq. It's a little different from what used to be the place. It's a little different from other countries in that part of the world where one person makes a decision, and everybody kind of either likes it or doesn't like it, but you keep your mouth shut if you don't like it.

Here you're watching people kind of edging for responsibility and working it, and we're very much involved. I know you know Condi went over there the other day, and her message was, let's get moving. The people want there to be a unity government. The people want there to be a democracy, and it requires leadership for people to stand up and take the lead. And so we're working with them to get this unit government up and running.

And then there's the security side. You can't have a democracy unless the people are confident in the capacity of the state to protect them from those who want to stop the advance of democracy. The enemy for a while tried to shake our nerve. They can't shake my nerve. They just can't shake it. So long as I think I'm doing the right thing, and so long as we can win, I'm going to leave our kids there because it's necessary for the security of this country. If I didn't think that we could win, I'd pull them out. You just got to know that. I cannot sit with the mothers and fathers of our troops in harm's way and not feel like victory is necessary and victory will be achieved.

Part of my decision-making process about whether they're there is based upon whether or not the goal is necessary and attainable. It's necessary to protect this country. I'm going to talk about it a little later. And it is attainable. It's attainable because the Iraqis on the political side have said, you bet. Give us a chance. They wrote a constitution; they ratified the constitution. Twelve million went to the polls. That's a high voter turnout, by the way. On the security side, our goal, our mission is to let the Iraqis take the fight. And as I -- I've always been saying, they stand up, we stand down. That means, we train the Iraqis to take the fight to those who want to disrupt their country.

And we're making good progress on the military side. By the way, we had to change our tactics. When we first got there, we said, why don't we train us an army that will be able to protect from an outside threat. It turned out there wasn't much of an outside threat compared to the inside threat. And so now the training mission has adapted to the tactics of the enemy on the ground. We're embedding our guys with the Iraqi army. They're becoming more efficient. There's over 200,000 trained. And we're constantly monitoring the quality of effort. And as the quality of the forces improves, they take over more territory. The idea is to have the Iraqi face in front, making the -- helping the folks get the confidence in their government.

We lagged in police training. And so General Casey, as he -- who is our General on the ground there, told me, he said, you know, this is going to be the year of training the police so they can bring confidence to people.

The enemy shifted its tactics, as you know, and has tried to create a civil war. And they blew up the -- one of the holiest sites in Samara, trying to get the Sunnis to get after the Shia, and vice versa. It's been an objective for awhile. First it was go after coalition troops. They're still danger for our troops, don't get me wrong. But they really tried to incite a civil war. And what was interesting to watch is to watch the reaction for the -- by the government. The government, including many of the religious leaders, stood up and said, no, we don't want to go there; we're not interested in a civil war.

The Iraqi troops did a good job of getting between some mosques and crowds, and they got in between competing elements and stood their ground. And as I put it awhile ago, they said, the Iraqi people looked into the abyss and didn't like what they saw. And it's still troublesome, of course. There's still sectarian violence. You can't have a free state if you've got militia taking the law into their own hands.

Now remember, this is a society adjusting to being free after a tyranny. And Saddam Hussein's tactics to keep the country in check was to pit one group of people against another and say, I'm the only stabilizing force for you. He was brutal on Shia, he destroyed with chemical weapons many Kurds, and he was tough on Sunnis, too. But he created a kind of -- this sense of rivalry.

And so you can understand why there's revenge after years of this kind of tension he created. Our job, and the job of rational Iraqi leaders is to prevent these sectarian reprisal attacks from going on. And it's tough work, but I want you to know, we understand the problem. More importantly, General Casey understands the problem.

We're adjusting our tactics to be able to help these Iraqis secure their country so that democracy can flourish. They want democracy. That's what they've said. The troops, time and time again, have shown that they're better trained than before. And we've got more work to do on that, I readily concede. There's a lot of debate and a lot of questions about what's happening, I understand that.

Again, I repeat to you, I know what violence does to people. First of all, I'm confident -- people are saying, I wonder if these people can ever get their act together and self-govern. The answer is, I'm confident they can if we don't lose our nerve.

One of the decision -- principles -- a principle on which I made decisions is this: I believe that freedom is universal. America was founded on the natural rights of men and women, which speaks to the universality of freedom. And if you believe in the universality of freedom, then you have confidence that if given a chance, people will seize that opportunity. No question the Iraqis need help after living under the thumb of a tyrant.

But freedom is embedded, I believe, in the souls of men and women all over the earth. You know, you don't demand freedom just -- more than Methodists demand freedom, let me put it to you that way. I'm a Methodist. (Laughter.) There's an interesting debate -- is it imposing one's values to encourage others to live in freedom? I argue the answer to that question is, absolutely not, if you believe in the universality of freedom.

And so while thrilled to see the vote, I was -- I wasn't shocked. People want to be free. I know you're thinking about, well, when's he going to get our troops out of there? There's a debate going on in Washington, D.C., which it should, and it's an important debate about our troop levels. Here's my answer to you: I'm not going to make decisions based upon polls and focus groups. I'm going to make my decisions based upon the recommendations of our generals on the ground. They're the ones who decide how to achieve the victory I just described. They're the ones who give me the information.

I remember coming up in the Vietnam War and it seemed like that there was a -- during the Vietnam War, there was a lot of politicization of the military decisions. That's not going to be the case under my administration. They say, well, does George Casey tell you the truth? You bet he tells me the truth. When I talk to him, which I do quite frequently, I've got all the confidence in the world in this fine General. He's a smart guy, he's on the ground, he's making incredible sacrifices for our country, and he -- if he says he needs more troops, he'll get them, and if he says he can live with fewer troops because the Iraqis are prepared to take the fight, that's the way it's going to be.

There are some in Washington, D.C. and around the country who are good folks, legitimate, decent folks, saying, pull the troops out. That would be a huge mistake. It would be a huge -- it would be a huge  -- hold on a second -- it would be a huge mistake for these reasons: The enemy has said that they want us to leave Iraq in order to be able to regroup and attack us. If the American people -- the American government, not the people -- were to leave prematurely before victory is achieved, it would embolden the enemy.

Now, I recognize some don't see the enemy like I do. There's kind of a different view of the enemy. That's a good thing about America, people can have different points of view, you know? And people should be allowed to express them, which is great.

I see an enemy that is totalitarian in nature, that's clearly stated they want to attack us again, and they want safe haven from which to do so. That's why they're trying to stop democracy in Iraq. If we were to pull out our troops early, it would send a terrible signal to the Iraqis. Twelve million people said, I want to be free. And they need our help. We're helping the Iraqis achieve freedom. They watch these deals. They listen carefully to the debate in America. They need to watch -- by the way -- they need to watch this debate, which is good. It's what free societies do, they debate. But they're also listening very carefully about whether or not this country has got the will necessary to achieve the objective.

Thirdly, if we left before the mission was complete, what would it say to our troops and the families, particularly those who have lost a loved one? I spend -- let me say this about our military -- the volunteer army is a necessary part of our society. We need to maintain the volunteer army. It is a really -- we've got a magnificent group of men and women who serve our country. Do you realize most people who served, are serving today, volunteered after 9/11? They saw the stakes, and they said, I want to join the United States military. The retention rate is high, which means we've got people serving in uniform who not only volunteered and saw the stakes, but have been involved in this conflict and said, I'd like to stay in the military.

It is a -- the military is a vital part of securing this country in the war on terror. Now, if you don't think we're at war, then it probably doesn't matter that much. I not only think we're at war, I know we're at war. And it's going to require diligence and strength and a really -- and a military that's well paid, well housed, well trained, where morale is high. And pulling out before the mission is complete would send a terrible signal to the United States military.

I welcome the debate, but I just want people here to know, we're going to complete the mission. We'll achieve victory. And I want to say this to the Iraqi people: We want to help you achieve your dreams. And the United States of America will not be intimidated by thugs and assassins.

I got one more thing to say, then I -- I got one more thing to say. I know I'm getting a little windy. I want to talk to people about why it's important for us to succeed in Iraq, and Afghanistan, for that matter. I told you there's a short-term reason -- deny safe haven and help get allies in the war on terror to prevent this totalitarian movement from gaining a stronghold in places from which they can come hit us.

There's a longer term reason, as well, and that is, you defeat an ideology of darkness with an ideology of hope and light. And freedom and liberty are part of an ideology of light. Our foreign policy in the past has been one that said, well, if the waters look calm in parts of the world, even though there may not be freedom, that's okay. The problem with that foreign policy is below the surface there was resentment and anger and despair, which provided a fertile ground for a totalitarian group of folks to spread their poisonous philosophy and recruit.

The way to defeat this notion of -- their notion of society is one that is open, that is democratic, that is based upon liberty. This doesn't have to be an American-style democracy. It won't be. Democracy has got to reflect the tradition and the history of the countries in which it takes hold. I understand that. And nobody in the Middle East should think that when the President talks about liberty and democracy, he's saying you got to look just like America, or act like America. Nobody is saying that.

I am saying, though, trust your people; give them a chance to participate in society. I believe a society is a whole society in which women are free and are given equal rights. I believe there's a whole society in which young girls are given a chance to go to school and become educated. I believe it's a whole society when government actually responds to people not dictates to people. That's what I believe. And I believe that it's the best way in the long run to defeat an ideology that feels the opposite way. And we've seen it happen in our history before. It's happened in some of your lifetimes.

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I believe that one day an American President will be talking about the world in which he is making decisions, or she is making decisions, and they'll look back and say, thank goodness a generation of Americans understood the universality of liberty and the fact that freedom can change troubled parts of the world into peaceful parts of the world.

Is it worth it in Iraq? You bet it is. It's worth it to protect ourselves in the short-run, but it's necessary and worth it to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come. And that's what's on my mind these days.

- George W. Bush, President Bush Discusses Global War on Terror, April 6, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/04/20060406-3.html

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Finally, some Americans are asking if it's time to pull out our troops and leave the Iraqis to settle their own differences. I know the work in Iraq is really difficult, but I strongly feel it's vital to the security of our country. The terrorists are killing and maiming and fighting desperately to stop the formation of a unity government because they understand what a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East means for them and their ideology. They know that when freedom sets root in Iraq, it will be a mortal blow to their aspirations to dominate the region and advance their hateful vision. So they're determined to stop the advance of a free Iraq, and we must be equally determined to stop them.

The irony is that the enemy seems to have a much clearer sense of what's at stake than some of the politicians here in Washington, D.C. One member of Congress who has proposed an immediate withdrawal of American forces in Iraq recently explained that what would happen after American forces pulled out was this: He said, "They'll fight each other, somebody will win, they'll settle it for themselves." While it might sound attractive to some, it would have disastrous consequences for American security. The Iraqi government is still in transition, and the Iraqi security forces are still gathering capacity. If we leave Iraq before they're capable of defending their own democracy, the terrorists will win. They will achieve their stated goal. This is what the terrorists have told us they want to achieve. They will turn Iraq into a safe haven. They will seek to arm themselves with weapons of mass destruction. They will use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East. They will use Iraq as a base from which to launch further attacks against the United States of America.

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If we leave Iraq before the job is done, the terrorists will move in and fill the vacuum, and they will use that failed state to bring murder and destruction to freedom-loving nations.

I know some in our country disagree with my decision to liberate Iraq. Whatever one thought about the decision to remove Saddam from power, I hope we should all agree that pulling our troops out prematurely would be a disaster. If we were to let the terrorists drive us out of Iraq, we would signal to the world that America cannot be trusted to keep its word. We would undermine the morale of our troops by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed. We would cause the tyrants in the Middle East to laugh at our failed resolve and tighten their repressive grip. The global terrorist movement would be emboldened and more dangerous than ever. For the security of our citizens and the peace of the world, we will not turn the future of Iraq over to the followers of a failed dictator, or to evil men like bin Laden and Zarqawi.

America will leave Iraq, but we will not retreat from Iraq. We will leave because Iraqi forces have gained in strength, not because America's will has weakened. We will complete the mission in Iraq because the security of the American people is linked to the success in Iraq.

We're pursuing a clear strategy for victory. Victory requires an integrated strategy: political, economic and security. These three elements depend on and reinforce one another. By working with Iraqi leaders to build the foundations of a strong democracy, we will ensure they have the popular support they need to defeat the terrorists. By going after the terrorists, coalition and Iraqi forces are creating the conditions that allow the Iraqi people to begin rebuilding their lives and their country. By helping Iraqis with economic reconstruction, we're giving every citizen a real stake in the success of a free Iraq. And as all this happens, the terrorists, those who offer nothing but death and destruction, are becoming isolated from the population.

I wish I could tell you the violence in Iraq is waning and that all the tough days in the struggle are behind us. They're not. There will be more tough fighting ahead with difficult days that test the patience and the resolve of our country. Yet, we can have faith in the final outcome because we've seen freedom overcome the darkness of tyranny and terror and secure the peace before. And in this century, freedom is going to prevail again.

...

- George W. Bush, President Discusses Democracy in Iraq with Freedom House, March 29, 2006

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/03/20060329-6.html

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QUESTION: The President said this week that whether there'll be troops in Iraq for the unforeseeable future will be determined by the next President, meaning we're going to have troops in Iraq at least through January of '09.

SECRETARY RICE: The President was asked this question in a particular way, and he answered that some American troops may well be there for the next president. But I would just point to what the President has said continually, which is that American forces are going to come down commencement with the need as Iraqi forces stand up, and they are indeed standing up.

General Casey has talked about a significant reduction of American forces over the next year. And that significant reduction is because Iraqi forces are taking and holding territory now, because during this most recent uptake in sectarian violence the Iraqi army behaved very, very well, so Iraqi forces are getting better. American forces are ceding territory and I think it's entirely probable that we will see a significant drawdown of American forces over the next year. That's what General Casey believes.

QUESTION: This year?

SECRETARY RICE: It's all dependent on the ground -- on events on the ground. But as General Casey said, we see the progress of Iraqi forces. We see the progress of the political process and there's every reason to believe that American forces can start to drawdown.

QUESTION: And is the insurgency in its last throes?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the insurgency politically is certainly in danger, because the Sunnis who stood outside of the political process --

QUESTION: But in terms of violence, is it in its last throes?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the insurgency is still able to pull off violence and kill innocent children or kill an innocent schoolteacher, yes, they're able to do that and they might be able to do that for some time. But what they've not been able to do is to disrupt the political process. What they've not been able to do is to set Iraqis one against another in the political process. They've not been able to stop free elections. They're not able to stop the formation of the government. A few violent people can always grab headlines and can always kill innocent people.

QUESTION: But it's more than a few.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's a few in terms of the population of Iraqis.

QUESTION: But it could not exist without being enabled by the population.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the population is less and less enabling. Every day there are reports that Zarqawi and al-Qaida meet stiff resistance, indeed, violent resistance from Iraqi tribes. Sunnis are now a part of the political process. And I know that people wonder when will the government formation finish. It seems to be dragging on after the elections. But I would just note, I read the other day, someone said, well, they're dividing up the spoils of the offices. That's not what they're doing in this process. They are writing a government program on which the national unity will govern. They are writing the rules by which they will govern and they're determining who will take key positions.

So this is an extraordinary matter, an extraordinary scene with Iraqi Sunni and Shia and Kurds all working together toward a unity government.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Interview on NBC's Meet the Press with Tim Russert, March 26, 2006

source:  http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/63703.htm

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Q: Mr. Secretary, President Bush this week indicated that he expected U.S. troops to be in Iraq through at least the beginning of 2009.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I saw that.

Q: Are you planning for that contingency? And what strain, if any, do you think will be placed on the military by maintaining troop rotations to Iraq for that extended period of time?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I think the stress on our military, interestingly, is being eased by the way the force is being managed. We have moved thousands of military people out of civilian positions and back into military positions, where they belong. We -- the Army -- has been aggressively modularizing their force and increasing the number of combat brigades that are available. We've been successful in reducing the extent to which the Guard and the Reserve are being called upon. From something in excess of 40 percent of the deployed force, today it's down around 20 percent of the deployed force.

ADM. GIAMBASTIANI: Nineteen, actually.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Nineteen percent. That's close to 20.

ADM. GIAMBASTIANI: Yes, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah. And it is -- good progress is being made. So I would anticipate, as we've said, that as the Afghan and Iraqi security forces continue to take over more and more responsibility, we'll continue to reduce down our forces, and that any stress on the force would be eased rather than increased.

Q: Just to follow up, sir. The first part of the question: Are you planning for troops to be in Iraq until the beginning of 2009?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I think the way the president's repeated it -- first of all, I don't think that's what he said. But in any event --

Q: That future presidents would make the decision on the presence of U.S. troops.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah. I've avoided predicting timing. I remember when a secretary of defense announced that they were putting troops, I think it was in Bosnia or Kosovo and they'd be out in six or eight months, by Christmas, I think, and --

Q: That was a president, Mr. Secretary.

SEC. RUMSFELD: President.

And they were there 10 years later.

And I think guessing about things like that -- I mean, you'd have to define it. It would take a lot of time. I mean, we may be helping to train and equip some forces in Iraq in 2009. Are we making plans to do that? We're making plans to assist the Iraqis and the Afghans in training and equipping their forces so that they can take over the responsibility. And as the president said, it's conditions based. I'm not going to get into speculating about specific numbers or on specific dates. It just isn't fruitful.

...

Q: Mr. Secretary, given the performance of the Iraqi security forces, as the admiral just talked about, are you still confident that the size of the U.S. force in Iraq can be brought down significantly this year?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Jim, I don't know how many times I have to answer this. The level of the forces -- we'll try it one more time. All together: The level of the forces in Iraq will depend on the conditions on the ground and the recommendations of the commander. And if you can predict precisely what the conditions on the ground will be and what the recommendations of the commander will be, I can tell you precisely what the trajectory, up or down or level, might be of those troops.

We anticipate that they'll go down. And the reason we anticipate they'll go down is because we think the government will be formed and it will meet with reasonable acceptance and that the Iraqi security forces will continue to be performing well and that we will continue to pass over battle space, bases and responsibility to the Iraqi security forces.

Q: Have you received any recommendations through your commanders?

SEC. RUMSFELD: No, except the one I announced, which does -- was that we took one of the call forward battalions, brought it into Baghdad, because General Casey felt it would be desirable to have it there during the Arba'in pilgrimage period and for the -- until the formation of the new government.

And since that latter condition has not occurred, it's still there doing a good job.

- DoD News Briefing with Secretary Rumsfeld and Adm. Giambastiani, March 23, 2006

source:  http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2006/tr20060323-12695.html

COPYRIGHT 2005, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC


Now the fundamental question is: Can we win in Iraq? And that's what I want to talk about. First of all, you got to understand that I fully understand there is deep concern among the American people about whether or not we can win. And I can understand why people are concerned. And they're concerned because the enemy has got the capacity to affect our thinking. This is an enemy who will kill innocent people in order to achieve an objective. And Americans are decent, honorable people, they care. We care about human life. We care about human dignity. We value life. We value the life of our own citizens, and we value the life of other citizens. And so it's easy for an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people to affect us.

The enemy has told us their objectives in Iraq. And I think it's important for the Commander-in-Chief to take the words of the enemy very seriously. They have said that they want to spread their philosophy to other parts of the Middle East. They have said that. They have said they want to attack us again. They believe that democracies are soft, that it's just a matter of time for the United States to lose our will and create a vacuum in Iraq so they can use their terror techniques and their willingness to kill to develop a safe haven from which to launch attacks. That's what the enemy has said. This is -- I hope the citizens of this country understand that we have intercepted documents and we put them out for people to see. I take the words very seriously.

Iraq is a part of the global war on terror. In other words, it's a global war. We're dealing with a group of folks that want to spread an ideology, and they see a problem developing in Iraq, and so they're heading into Iraq to fight us, because they can't stand the thought of democracy. Democracy trumps their ideology every time. Freedom and democracy represent hope; their point of view represents despair. Freedom represents life and the chance for people to realize their dreams; their philosophy says, you do it my way or else. And so they're trying to fight us in Iraq.

And we have a strategy for victory in Iraq. It's a three-pronged strategy, starting with -- it's politics, it is a -- it's security, and it's economy. On politics, was to get the people to the polls to see if they even cared about democracy, give them a chance to vote, see what the people thought. And you might remember the elections -- it probably seems like an eternity. It was just a year ago that they started voting -- a little more than a year, in January of last year. And the first election round came off okay, but the Sunnis didn't participate. They were a little disgruntled with life there. They liked their privileged status and they were boycotting the elections. Then they wrote a constitution, which is a good constitution. It's a progressive constitution for that part of the world. More people came out to vote then last December. About 75 percent of the eligible voters said, I want to be free; I want democracy; I don't care what Mr. Zarqawi and his al Qaeda killers are trying to do to me, I'm going to defy them, and go to the polls.

And the people have spoken. And now it's time for a government to get stood up. There's time for the elected representatives -- or those who represent the voters, the political parties, to come together and form a unity government. That's what the people want; otherwise they wouldn't have gone to the polls, would they have?

I spoke to our Ambassador today, and General Casey, via video conferencing, and we talked about the need to make it clear to the Iraqis, it's time; it's time to get a government in place that can start leading this nation and listening to the will of the people. It's a little hard. You can imagine what it's like coming out of the -- having been ruled by a tyrant. People are -- when you spoke out before, no telling what was going to happen to you. It generally wasn't good. And now people are beginning to realize democracy has taken hold.

By the way, if you look at our own history, it was a little bumpy on our road, too. You might remember the Articles of Confederation. They didn't work too well. It took us a while from the moment of our revolution to get our Constitution written, the one that we now live by.

The second part is to help people with their economy. And we had to change our strategy there. We first went in there and said, let's build some big plants. The problem was the big plants served as big targets for those who are disgruntled, the terrorists who are going into Iraq to use it as a safe haven, plus some of their allies, the Saddamists. These were Saddam's inner-circle buddies and stuff like that that had received special privileges. They weren't happy that they were no longer in privileged status. And so they were destroying some of the infrastructure we were building. So we changed our strategy and said, look, why don't we go with smaller projects, particularly in the provinces, so people can begin to see the benefits of what it means to have a democracy unfold.

And the third aspect is security. When we got in there, it became apparent to our troops on the ground that we had a lot of training to do. We had to really rebuild an army to make sure that people had the skills necessary to be able to fight off those who want to stop the march of democracy. First we trained the army for threats from outside the country. But we realized the true threats were inside the country, whether it be the Saddamists, some Sunni rejectionists, or al Qaeda that was in there torturing and killing and maiming in order to get their way.

And we're making progress when it comes to training the troops. More and more Iraqis are taking the fight. Right after the bombing of the Golden Mosque, for example, is an interesting indication as to whether or not the Iraqi troops are getting better.

The enemy can't defeat us militarily, by the way. They can't beat us on the field of battle. But the only thing they can do is they can either try to stop democracy from moving -- they failed on that. Last year, they failed. Their stated objective was just not to let democracy get going, and they flunked the test. Now they're trying to foment a civil war. See, that's the only way they can win. And they blew up the mosque. And there was some awful violence, some reprisals taking place. And I can understand people saying, man, it's all going to -- it's not working out. But the security forces did a pretty good job of keeping people apart.

In other words, it was a test. It was a test for the security forces, and it was a test for the Iraqi government. The way I like to put it is they looked into the abyss as to whether or not they want a civil war or not, and chose not to. That's not to say we don't have more work to do, and we do --  But it's important for me to continue -- look, I'm an optimistic guy. I believe we'll succeed. Let me tell you this -- put it to you this way: If I didn't think we'd succeed, I'd pull out troops out. I cannot look mothers and dads in the eye -- -- I can't ask this good Marine to go into harm's way if I didn't believe, one, we're going to succeed; and, two, it's necessary for the security of the United States.

And it's tough fighting. It's tough fighting, because we got an enemy that's just cold-blooded. They can't beat us militarily, but they can try to shake our will. See, remember, I told you, they have said that it's just a matter of time, just a matter of time before the United States loses its nerve. I believe we're doing the right thing, and we're not going to retreat in the face of thugs and assassins.  Thank you.

It's the Iraqis' fight. Ultimately, the Iraqis are going to have to determine their future. They made their decision politically; they voted. And these troops that we're training are going to have to stand up and defend their democracy. We got work, by the way, in '06 to make sure the police are trained as adequately as the military, the army. It's their choice to make. And I like to put it this way: As they stand up, we'll stand down.

But I want to say something to you about troop levels, and I know that's something that people are talking about in Washington a lot. I'm going to make up my mind based upon the advice of the United States military that's in Iraq. I'll be making up my mind about the troop levels based upon recommendations of those who are on the ground. I'm going to make up my mind based upon achieving a victory, not based upon polls, focus groups or election-year politics.

- George W. Bush, President Discusses War on Terror, Progress in Iraq, March 22, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/03/20060322-3.html


Yesterday I delivered a -- the second in a series of speeches on the situation in Iraq. I spoke about the violence that the Iraqi people had faced since last month's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. I also said that for every act of violence there is encouraging progress in Iraq that's hard to capture on the evening news.

Yesterday I spoke about an important example of the gains we and the Iraqis have made, and that is in the northern city of Tal Afar. The city was once under al Qaeda control, and thanks to coalition and Iraqi forces, the terrorists have now been driven out of that city. Iraqi security forces are maintaining law and order. We see the outlines of a free and secure Iraq that we and the Iraqi people have been fighting for. As we mark the third anniversary of the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the success we're seeing in Tal Afar gives me confidence in the future of Iraq.

Terrorists haven't given up; they're tough-minded, they like to kill. There's going to be more tough fighting ahead. No question that sectarian violence must be confronted by the Iraqi government and a better-trained police force. Yet we're making progress. And that's important for the American people to understand.

We're making progress because of -- we've got a strategy for victory, and we're making progress because the men and women of the United States military are showing magnificent courage and they're making important sacrifices that have brought Iraq to an historic moment -- the opportunity to build a democracy that reflects its country's diversity, that serves its people, and is an active partner in the fight against the terrorists.

Now Iraq's leaders must take advantage of the opportunity. I was encouraged by the announcement Sunday the Iraqi leaders -- that the Iraqi leaders made -- are making progress toward a council that gives each of the country's main political factions a voice in making security and economic policies. It's an indicator that Iraq's leaders understand the importance of a government of national unity. Our Ambassador to Iraq, Zal Khalilzad, is very much involved in the process and will encourage the Iraqi leaders to put aside their differences, reach out across sectarian lines and form a unity government.

...

We have a plan for victory and it's important we achieve that plan. Democracy -- first of all, this is a global war on terror and Iraq is a part of the war on terror. Mr. Zarqawi and al Qaeda, the very same people that attacked the United States, have made it clear that they want to drive us out of Iraq so they can plan, plot, and attack America again. That's what they have said; that's their objective. I think it is very important to have a President who is realistic and listens to what the enemy says.

Secondly, I am confident -- I believe, I'm optimistic we'll succeed. If not, I'd pull our troops out. If I didn't believe we had a plan for victory I wouldn't leave our people in harm's way. And that's important for the woman to understand.

Thirdly, in spite of the bad news on television -- and there is bad news. You brought it up; you said, how do I react to a bombing that took place yesterday -- is precisely what the enemy understands is possible to do. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't talk about it. I'm certainly not being -- please don't take that as criticism. But it also is a realistic assessment of the enemies capability to affect the debate, and they know that. They're capable of blowing up innocent life so it ends up on your TV show. And, therefore, it affects the woman in Cleveland you were talking to. And I can understand how Americans are worried about whether or not we can win.

I think most Americans understand we need to win. But they're concerned about whether or not we can win. So one of the reasons I go around the country, to Cleveland, is to explain why I think we can win. And so I would say, yes, I'm optimistic about being able to achieve a victory, but I'm also realistic. I fully understand the consequences of this war. I understand people's lives are being lost. But I also understand the consequences of not achieving our objective by leaving too early. Iraq would become a place of instability, a place from which the enemy can plot, plan and attack.

I believe that they want to hurt us again. And, therefore, I know we need to stay on the offense against this enemy. They've declared Iraq to be the central front and, therefore, we've got to make sure we win that. And I believe we will.

...

And one of the reasons why it's important for me to continue to speak out and explain why we have a strategy for victory, why we can succeed. And I'm going to say it again, if I didn't believe we could succeed, I wouldn't be there. I wouldn't put those kids there. I meet with too many families who's lost a loved one to not be able to look them in the eye and say, we're doing the right thing. And we are doing the right thing. A democracy in Iraq is going to affect the neighborhood. A democracy in Iraq is going to inspire reformers in a part of the world that is desperate for reformation.

Our foreign policy up to now was to kind of tolerate what appeared to be calm. And underneath the surface was this swelling sense of anxiety and resentment, out of which came this totalitarian movement that is willing to spread its propaganda through death and destruction, to spread its philosophy. Now, some in this country don't -- I can understand -- don't view the enemy that way. I guess they kind of view it as an isolated group of people that occasionally kill. I just don't see it that way. I see them bound by a philosophy with plans and tactics to impose their will on other countries.

The enemy has said that it's just a matter of time before the United States loses its nerve and withdraws from Iraq. That's what they have said. And their objective for driving us out of Iraq is to have a place from which to launch their campaign to overthrow modern governments -- moderate governments -- in the Middle East, as well as to continue attacking places like the United States. Now, maybe some discount those words as kind of meaningless propaganda. I don't, Jim. I take them really seriously. And I think everybody in government should take them seriously and respond accordingly. And so it's -- I've got to continue to speak as clearly as I possibly can about the consequences of success and the consequences of failure, and why I believe we can succeed.

...

First of all, I have no idea whether or not a -- how Americans are going to react to a unity government. There will be a unity government formed, then there could be an attack the next day, and so it's hard for me to predict. I do know a unity government, though, is necessary for us to achieve our objective. I do know that the Iraqi people -- 11 million of them -- voted in an election in December, which was, like, four months ago. And the message I received from that is I hope the same message that those who have been in charge with forming a unity government receive, and that is the people have spoken and they want democracy. That's what they said. Otherwise, they wouldn't have participated. They expect there to be a democracy in place that listens to their demands.

And so I'm -- most importantly, I believe a unity government will begin to affect the attitudes of the Iraqis. And that's important for them to get confidence not only in a government, but in a security force that will provide them security. It's -- confidence amongst the Iraqis is what is going to be a vital part of achieving a victory, which will then enable the American people to understand that victory is possible. In other words, the American people will -- their opinions, I suspect, will be affected by what they see on their TV screens. The unity government will affect, first and foremost, the Iraqi people, and that's a very important part of achieving success.

We do have a plan for victory and victory is clearly stated, and that is that Iraq is not a -- becomes a safe haven. And that's important for the American people, that Iraq not be a safe haven for terrorists. Their stated objective is to turn Iraq into a safe haven from which they can launch attacks.

Secondly, part of the plan for victory is for there to be security forces capable of defending and providing security to the Iraqi citizens. And, thirdly, that democracy, the government take root to the extent that it can't be overturned by those who want to stop democracy from taking hold in Iraq. These are clear objectives and they're achievable objectives.

...

Q Sir, you said earlier today that you believe there's a plan for success; if you did not, you would pull the troops out. And so my question is, one, is there a point at which having the American forces in Iraq becomes more a part of the problem than a part of the solution? Can you say that you will not keep American troops in there if they're caught in the cross-fire in a civil war? And can you say to the American people, assure them that there will come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Bob, the decisions about our troop levels will be made by General Casey and the commanders on the ground. They're the ones who can best judge whether or not the presence of coalition troops create more of a problem than a solution -- than be a part of the solution.

Secondly, I've answered the question on civil war. Our job is to make sure the civil war doesn't happen. But there will be -- but if there is sectarian violence, it's the job of the Iraqi forces, with coalition help, to separate those sectarian forces.

Third part of your question?

Q Will there come a day -- and I'm not asking you when, not asking for a timetable -- will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq.

Q So it won't happen on your watch?

THE PRESIDENT: You mean a complete withdrawal? That's a timetable. I can only tell you that I will make decisions on force levels based upon what the commanders on the ground say.

- George W. Bush, Press Conference, March 21, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/03/20060321-4.html


In the war on terror we face a global enemy -- and if we were not fighting this enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and trying to kill Americans across the world and within our own borders. Against this enemy, there can be no compromise. So we will fight them in Iraq, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won.

...

In the Middle East, freedom is once again contending with an ideology that seeks to sow anger and hatred and despair. And like fascism and communism before, the hateful ideologies that use terror will be defeated. Freedom will prevail in Iraq; freedom will prevail in the Middle East; and as the hope of freedom spreads to nations that have not known it, these countries will become allies in the cause of peace.

The security of our country is directly linked to the liberty of the Iraqi people -- and we will settle for nothing less than victory. Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their citizens on their own, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation. There will be more days of sacrifice and tough fighting before the victory is achieved. Yet by helping the Iraqis defeat the terrorists in their land, we bring greater security to our own.

As we make progress toward victory, Iraqis will continue to take more responsibility for their own security, and fewer U.S. forces will be needed to complete the mission. But it's important for the Iraqis to hear this: The United States will not abandon Iraq. We will not leave that country to the terrorists who attacked America and want to attack us again. We will leave Iraq, but when we do, it will be from a position of strength, not weakness. Americans have never retreated in the face of thugs and assassins, and we will not begin now.

- George W. Bush, President Discusses War on Terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 20, 2006

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/03/20060320-7.html


In recent weeks, Americans have seen horrific images from Iraq: the bombing of a great house of worship in Samarra, sectarian reprisals between Sunnis and Shias, and car bombings and kidnappings. Amid continued reports about the tense situation in parts of that country, it may seem difficult at times to understand how we can say that progress is being made. But the reaction to the recent violence by Iraq's leaders is a clear sign of Iraq's commitment to democracy.

I'm encouraged to see that Iraqi political leaders are making good progress toward forming a unity government, despite the recent violence. Our Ambassador to Iraq, Zal Khalilzad, reports that the violence has created a new sense of urgency among these leaders to form a national unity government as quickly as possible. I urge them to continue their work to put aside their differences, to reach out across political, religious, and sectarian lines, and to form a government that can confront the terrorist threat and earn the trust and confidence of all Iraqis.

I also remain optimistic because slowly but surely our strategy is getting results. This month I'm giving a series of speeches to update the American people on that strategy. I'm discussing the progress we are making, the lessons we have learned from our experience, and how we are fixing what has not worked. This past week, I discussed the security element of our strategy. I spoke about our increasingly successful efforts to train Iraqi security forces to take the lead in the fight against the terrorists. And I described our strengthened efforts to defeat the threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

On Monday, I will give a speech discussing how we are working with all elements of Iraqi society to remove the terrorists and restore order in Iraqi cities, to rebuild homes and communities, and to achieve the stability that can come only from freedom. I will also share some concrete examples of how this approach is succeeding -- evidence of real progress that is too often lost amid the more dramatic reports of violence.

Sunday marks the third anniversary of the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The decision by the United States and our Coalition partners to remove Saddam Hussein from power was a difficult decision -- and it was the right decision. America and the world are safer today without Saddam Hussein in power. He is no longer oppressing the Iraqi people, sponsoring terror, and threatening the world. He is now being tried for his crimes, and over 25 million Iraqis now live in freedom. This is an achievement America and our allies can be proud of.

These past three years have tested our resolve. We've seen hard days and setbacks. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, the terrorists made Iraq the central front in the war on terror, in an attempt to turn that country into a safe haven where they can plan more attacks against America. The fighting has been tough. The enemy has proved brutal and relentless. We have changed our approach in many areas to reflect the hard realities on the ground. And our troops have shown magnificent courage and made tremendous sacrifices.

These sacrifices by our Coalition forces -- and the sacrifices of Iraqis -- have given Iraq this historic opportunity to form a democratic government and rebuild itself after decades of tyranny. In the past three years, Iraqis have gone from living under a brutal tyrant, to liberation, sovereignty, free elections, a constitutional referendum, and last December, elections for a fully constitutional government. By their courage, the Iraqi people have spoken and made their intentions clear: They want to live in a democracy and shape their own destiny.

In this fight, the American and Iraqi people share the same enemies because we stand for freedom. The security of our country is directly linked to the liberty of the Iraqi people, and we will settle for nothing less than complete victory. Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for the terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation.

More fighting and sacrifice will be required to achieve this victory, and for some, the temptation to retreat and abandon our commitments is strong. Yet there is no peace, there's no honor, and there's no security in retreat. So America will not abandon Iraq to the terrorists who want to attack us again. We will finish the mission. By defeating the terrorists in Iraq, we will bring greater security to our own country. And when victory is achieved, our troops will return home with the honor they have earned.

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, March 18, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/03/20060318.html


Next week, we will mark the three-year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In less than three years, the Iraqi people have gone from living under the boot of a brutal tyrant, to liberation, to sovereignty, to free elections, to a constitutional referendum, and last December, to elections for a fully constitutional government. In those December elections, over 11 million Iraqis -- more than 75 percent of the Iraqi voting age population -- defied the terrorists to cast their ballots.

Americans were inspired by the images of Iraqis bringing elderly relatives to the polls, holding up purple ink-stained fingers, dancing in the streets and celebrating their freedom. By their courage, the Iraqi people have spoken and made their intentions clear: they want to live in democracy -- and they are determined to shape their own destiny.

The past few weeks, the world has seen very different images from Iraq -- images of violence, and anger, and despair. We have seen a great house of worship -- the Golden Mosque of Samarra -- in ruins after a brutal terrorist attack. We've seen mass protests in response to provocation. We've seen reprisal attacks by armed militias on Sunni mosques -- and random violence that has taken the lives of hundreds of Iraqi citizens.

The terrorists attacked the Golden Mosque for a reason: They know that they lack the military strength to challenge Iraqi and coalition forces directly -- so their only hope is to try and provoke a civil war. So they attacked one of Shia Islam's holiest sites, hoping to incite violence that would drive Iraqis apart and stop their progress on the path to a free society.

Immediately after the attack, I said that Iraq faced a moment of choosing -- and in the days that followed, the Iraqi people made their choice. They looked into the abyss and did not like what they saw. After the bombing, most Iraqis saw what the perpetuators [sic] of this attack were trying to do: The enemy had failed to stop the January 2005 elections, they failed to stop the constitutional referendum, they failed to stop the December elections, and now they're trying to stop the formation of a unity government. By their response over the past two weeks, Iraqis have shown the world they want a future of freedom and peace -- and they will oppose a violent minority that seeks to take that future away from them by tearing their country apart.

The situation in Iraq is still tense and we're still seeing acts of sectarian violence and reprisal. Yet out of this crisis, we've also seen signs of a hopeful future. We saw the restraint of the Iraqi people in the face of massive provocation. Most Iraqis did not turn to violence, and many chose to show their solidarity by coming together in joint Sunni and Shia prayer services. We saw the leadership of Sunni and Shia clerics who joined together to denounce the bombing and call for restraint. Ayatollah Sistani issued a strong statement denouncing what he called "sectarian sedition," and he urged all Iraqis -- in his words -- "not to be dragged into committing acts that would only please the enemies." We saw the capability of the Iraqi security forces, who deployed to protect religious sites, enforce a curfew, and restore civil order. We saw the determination of many of Iraq's leaders, who rose to the moment, came together, and acted decisively to diffuse the crisis.

Iraq's leaders know that this is not the last time they will be called to stand together in the face of an outrageous terrorist attack. Iraq's leaders know that they must put aside their differences, reach out across political, religious, and sectarian lines, and form a unity government that will earn the trust and the confidence of all Iraqis. Iraqis now have a chance to show the world that they have learned the lesson of Samarra: A country that divides into factions and dwells on old grievances risks sliding back into tyranny. The only path to a future of peace is the path of unity.

Soon the new parliament will be seated in Baghdad, and this will begin the process of forming a government. Forming a new government will demand negotiation and compromise by the Iraqis; it will require patience by America and our coalition allies.

In the weeks ahead, Americans will likely see a good deal of political maneuvering in Iraq -- as different factions and leaders advance competing agendas and seek their share of political power. Out of this process, a free government will emerge that represents the will of the Iraqi people -- instead of the will of one cruel dictator.

The work ahead in Iraq is hard -- and there will be more difficult moments. The Samarra attack was a clear attempt to ignite a civil war. And we can expect the enemy will try again -- and they will continue to sow violence and destruction designed to stop the emergence of a free and democratic Iraq.

The enemies of a free Iraq are determined -- yet so are the Iraqi people. And so are America and coalition partners. We will not lose our nerve. We will help the Iraqi people succeed. Our goal in Iraq is victory -- and victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation.

We have a comprehensive strategy for victory in Iraq -- a strategy I laid out in a series of speeches last year. Our strategy has three elements: On the political side, we are helping Iraqis build a strong democracy, so that old resentments will be eased, and the insurgency marginalized. On the economic side, we are continuing reconstruction efforts and helping Iraqis build a modern economy that will give all its citizens a stake in a free and peaceful Iraq. And on the security side, we are striking terrorist targets and training the Iraqi security forces -- which are taking responsibility for more Iraqi territory and becoming increasingly capable of defeating the enemy.

In the coming weeks, I will update the American people on our strategy -- the progress we are making, the lessons we have learned from our experiences, and how we are fixing what hasn't worked. Today, I will discuss the third element of our strategy -- the progress of our efforts to defeat the terrorists and train the Iraqi security forces so they can take the lead in defending their own democracy.

At the end of last year, I described in detail many of the changes we have made to improve the training of Iraqi security forces -- and we saw the fruits of those changes in recent days in Iraq. After the Samarra bombings, it was the Iraqi security forces -- not coalition forces -- that restored order. In the hours after the attack, Iraqi leaders put the Iraqi security forces on alert -- canceling all leaves, and heightening security around mosques and critical sites. Using security plans developed for the December elections, they deployed Iraqi forces in Baghdad and other trouble spots.

Iraqi police manned checkpoints, increased patrols, and ensured that peaceful demonstrators were protected -- while those who turned to violence were arrested. Public order brigades deployed as rapid reaction forces to areas where violence was reported. The 9th Mechanized Division of the Iraqi Army, which was in the midst of a major training event, regrouped and entered the Baghdad City Gates -- taking up assigned positions throughout the city with T-72 tanks and armored infantry vehicles. During the past two weeks, Iraqi security forces conducted more than 200 independent operations -- each of them Iraqi-planned, Iraqi-conducted, and Iraqi-led.

Having Iraqi forces in the lead has been critical to preventing violence from spinning out of control. For example, on the day of the Samarra bombing, the Iraqi national police responded to an armed demonstration in an area immediately adjacent to Sadr City -- where an angry Shia crowd had surrounded the Sunni Al Quds Mosque. The Iraqi Brigade Commander placed his troops -- who were largely Shia -- between the crowd and the mosque, and talked to the crowd using megaphones, and calling for calm and urging them to disperse. After a two-hour standoff, the crowd eventually left without incident -- and the national police remained in position overnight to guard the Mosque until the threat was over. The fact that Iraqis were in the lead and negotiating with their own countrymen helped diffuse a potential confrontation -- and prevented an escalation of violence.

In another Baghdad neighborhood, a similar situation unfolded: a group of armed militia members had gone in and occupied the Al Nida Mosque. An Iraqi Army brigade quickly arrived on the scene -- and the Brigade Commander negotiated with the group and secured their peaceful departure. Once again, because Iraqi forces spoke their language and understood the culture, they were able to convince the Iraqi militia to leave peacefully.

Not all Iraqi units performed as well as others -- and there were some reports of Iraqi units in Eastern Baghdad allowing militia members to pass through checkpoints. But American commanders are closely watching the situation, and they report these incidents appear to be the exception, not the rule. In the weeks since the bombing, the Iraqi security forces turned in a strong performance. From the outset, Iraqi forces understood that if they failed to stand for national unity, the country would slip into anarchy. And so they have stood their ground, and defended their democracy, and brought their nation through one of its most difficult moments since liberation.

General Marty Dempsey, our top commander responsible for training the Iraqis' security forces, says this about their performance: "They were deliberate, poised, even-handed, and professional. They engaged local tribal, political, and religious leaders. They patiently, but deliberately confronted armed groups to let them know that they had control of the situation." He went on to say, "I'm sure we will find instances where they could have performed better, but in the face of immense pressure, they performed very, very well." As a result of their performance, the Iraqi security forces are gaining the confidence of the Iraqi people. And as the Iraqi security forces make progress against the enemy, their morale continues to increase.

When I reported on the progress of the Iraqi security forces last year, I said that there were over 120 Iraqi and police combat battalions [sic] in the fight against the enemy -- and 40 of those were taking the lead in the fight. Today the number of battalions in the fight has increased to more than 130 -- with more than 60 taking the lead. As more Iraqi battalions come on line, these Iraqi forces are assuming responsibility for more territory. Today, Iraqi units have primary responsibility for more than 30,000 square miles of Iraq -- an increase of roughly 20,000 square miles since the beginning of the year. And Iraqi forces are now conducting more independent operations throughout the country than do coalition forces.

This is real progress, but there is more work to be done this year. Our commanders tell me that the Iraqi police still lag behind the Army in training and capabilities -- so one of our major goals in 2006 is to accelerate the training of the Iraqi police. One problem is that some National Police units have been disproportionately Shia -- and there have been some reports of infiltration of the national police by Shia militias. And so we're taking a number of steps to correct this problem:

First, we have begun implementing a program that has been effective with the Iraqi Army -- partnering U.S. battalions with the Iraqi national police battalions. These U.S. forces are working with their Iraqi counterparts -- giving them tactical training so they can defeat the enemy. And they are also teaching them about the role of a professional police force in a democratic system, so they can serve all Iraqis without discrimination.

Second, we are working with the Iraqi leaders to find and remove any leaders in the national police who show evidence of loyalties to militia. For example, last year there were reports that the Second Public Order Brigade contained members of an illegal militia, who were committing abuses. So last December, the Interior Ministry leadership removed the Second Brigade Commander, and replaced him with a new commander -- who then dismissed more than a hundred men with suspected militia ties. Today, this Iraqi police brigade has been transformed into a capable, professional unit -- and during the recent crisis after the Samarra bombing, they performed with courage and distinction.

Finally, we are working with Iraqis to diversify the ranks of the national police, by recruiting more Sunni Arabs. For example, the basic training class for the National Police Public Order forces that graduated last October was less than one percent Sunni. The class graduating in April will include many, many more Sunnis. By ensuring the Public Order forces reflect the general population, Iraqis are making the National Police a truly national institution -- one that is able to serve, protect, and defend all the Iraqi people.

As more capable Iraqi police and soldiers come on line, they will assume responsibility for more territory -- with the goal of having the Iraqis control more territory than the coalition by the end of 2006. And as Iraqis take over more territory, this frees American and Coalition forces to concentrate on training and on hunting down high-value targets like the terrorist Zarqawi and his associates. As Iraqis stand up, America and our coalition will stand down. And my decisions on troop levels will be made based upon the conditions on the ground, and the recommendations of our military commanders -- not artificial timetables set by politicians here in Washington, D.C.

These terrorists know they cannot defeat us militarily -- so they have turned to the weapon of fear. And one of the most brutal weapons at their disposal are improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

IEDs are bombs made from artillery shells, explosives, and other munitions that can be hidden and detonated remotely. After the terrorists were defeated in battles in Fallujah and Tall Afar, they saw that they could not confront Iraqi or American forces in pitched battles and survive. And so they turned to IEDs -- a weapon that allows them to attack us from a safe distance, without having to face our forces in battle.

The principal victims of IED attacks are innocent Iraqis. The terrorists and insurgents have used IEDs to kill Iraqi children playing in the streets, shoppers at Iraqi malls, and Iraqis lining up at police and army recruiting stations. They use IEDs to strike terror in the hearts of Iraqis, in an attempt to break their confidence in the free future of their country.

The enemy is also using IEDs in their campaign against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq -- and we are harnessing every available resource to deal with this threat. My administration has established a new high-level organization at the Department of Defense, led by retired four-star General Montgomery Meigs. On Saturday, General Meigs, along with the Secretary of Defense, briefed me at the White House on our plan to defeat the threat of IEDs. Our plan has three elements: targeting, training, and technology.

The first part of our plan is targeting and eliminating the terrorists and bomb makers. Across Iraq, we are on the hunt for the enemy -- capturing and killing the terrorists before they strike, uncovering and disarming their weapons before they go off, and rooting out and destroying bomb making cells so they can't produce more weapons.

Because the Iraqi people are the targets, primarily the targets of the bombers, Iraqis are increasingly providing critical intelligence to help us find the bomb-makers and stop new attacks. The number of tips from Iraqis has grown from 400 last March to over 4,000 in December. For example, just three weeks ago, acting on tips provided by local citizens, coalition forces uncovered a massive IED arsenal hidden in a location northwest of Baghdad. They found and confiscated more than 3,000 pieces of munitions -- in one of the largest weapons caches discovered in that region to date. Just two weeks ago, acting on intelligence from Iraqis, coalition forces uncovered a bomb-making facility northeast of Fallujah. They captured 61 terrorists at the facility and confiscated large numbers of weapons.

In all, during the past six months, Iraqi and coalition forces have found and cleared nearly 4,000 IEDs, uncovered more than 1,800 weapons caches and bomb-making plants, and killed or detained hundreds of terrorists and bomb-makers. We're on the hunt for the enemy -- and we're not going to rest until they've been defeated.

The second part of our plan is to give our forces specialized training to identify and clear IEDs before they explode. Before arriving in Iraq and Afghanistan, our combat units get training on how to counter the threat of IEDs. And to improve our training, last month we established a new IED Joint Center of Excellence headquartered at Fort Irwin, California -- where we're taking lessons learned from the IED fight in Iraq, and sharing them with our troops in the field and those preparing to deploy. This new initiative will ensure that every Army and Marine combat unit headed to Afghanistan and Iraq is prepared for the challenges that IEDs bring to the battlefield.

Before deploying, our troops will train with the equipment they will use in the IED fight, they'll study enemy tactics, and experience live fire training that closely mirrors what they will see when they arrive in the zone of combat. Our goal with this training is to ensure that when our forces encounter the enemy, that they're ready.

The third part of our plan is to develop new technologies to defend against IEDs. We are putting the best minds in America to work on this effort. The Department of Defense recently gathered some -- gathered 600 leaders from industry and academia, the national laboratories, the National Academy of Sciences, all branches of the military, and every relevant government agency to discuss technology solutions to the IED threat. We now have nearly a hundred projects underway. For security reasons, I'm not going to share the details of the technologies we're developing. The simple reason is, the enemy can use even the smallest details to overcome our defenses.

Earlier this year, a newspaper published details of a new anti-IED technology that was being developed. Within five days of the publication -- using details from that article -- the enemy had posted instructions for defeating this new technology on the Internet. We cannot let the enemy know how we're working to defeat him. But I can assure the American people that my administration is working to put the best technology in the hands of our men and women on the front lines -- and we are mobilizing resources against the IED threat.

I assured General Meigs that he will have the funding and personnel he needs to succeed. In 2004, the administration spent $150 million to fight the IED threat. This year, we're providing $3.3 billion to support our efforts to defeat IEDs. These investments are making a difference. Today, nearly half of the IEDs in Iraq are found and disabled before they can be detonated. In the past 18 months, we've cut the casualty rate per IED attack in half. More work needs to be done. Yet by targeting the bomb-makers, and training our forces, and deploying new technologies, we will stay ahead of the enemy, and that will save Iraqi and American lives.

Some of the most powerful IEDs we're seeing in Iraq today includes components that came from Iran. Our Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, told the Congress, "Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militia with the capability to build improvised explosive devises" in Iraq. Coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran. Such actions -- along with Iran's support for terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear weapons -- are increasingly isolating Iran, and America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.

We still have difficult work ahead in Iraq. I wish I could tell you that the violence is waning and that the road ahead will be smooth. It will not. There will be more tough fighting and more days of struggle -- and we will see more images of chaos and carnage in the days and months to come. The terrorists are losing on the field of battle, so they are fighting this war through the pictures we see on television and in the newspapers every day. They're hoping to shake our resolve and force us to retreat. They are not going to succeed.

The battle lines in Iraq are clearly drawn for the world to see, and there is no middle ground. The enemy will emerge from Iraq one of two ways: emboldened or defeated. The stakes in Iraq are high. By helping Iraqis build a democracy, we will deny the terrorists a safe haven to plan attacks against America. By helping Iraqis build a democracy, we will gain an ally in the war on terror. By helping Iraqis build a democracy, we will inspire reformers across the Middle East. And by helping Iraqis build a democracy, we'll bring hope to a troubled region, and this will make America more secure in the long-term.

Since the morning of September the 11th, we have known that the war on terror would require great sacrifice -- and in this war we have said farewell to some very good men and women. One of those courageous Americans was Sergeant William Scott Kinzer, Jr., who was killed last year by the terrorists while securing polling sites for the Iraqi elections. His mom, Debbie, wrote me a letter. She said: "These words are straight from a shattered but healing mother's heart. ... My son made the decision to join the Army. He believed that what he was involved in would eventually change Iraq and that those changes would be recorded in history books for years to come. ... On his last visit home... I asked him what I would ever do if something happened to him in Iraq. He smiled at me with -- his blue eyes sparkled, as he said, 'Mom, I love my job...If I should die I would die happy, does life get any better than this?'" His mom went on: "Please do not let the voices we hear the loudest change what you and Scott started in Iraq. Please do not... let his dying be in vain. ... Don't let my son have given his all for an unfinished job. ... Please...complete the mission."

I make this promise to Debbie, and all the families of the fallen heroes: We will not let your loved ones dying be in vain. We will finish what we started in Iraq. We will complete the mission. We will leave behind a democracy that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.  And a free Iraq, in the heart of the Middle East, will make the American people more secure for generations to come.

- George W. Bush, President Discusses Freedom and Democracy in Iraq, March 13, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/03/20060313-3.html


This month will mark the three-year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which liberated Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. As this milestone approaches, I will be giving a series of speeches to update the American people on our strategy for victory in Iraq. I will discuss the progress we are making, the lessons we've learned from our experiences, and how we're fixing what has not worked.

On Monday, I will give the first of these speeches, focusing on the security element of our strategy: the task of defeating the terrorists and training Iraqi security forces so they can take the lead in the fight and defend their own democracy.

The Iraqi security forces have made great strides in the past year, and they performed well after the recent bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This mosque is one of Shia Islam's holiest sites, and after it was bombed, bands of armed militia began exacting revenge, with reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques and random violence that took the lives of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.

Immediately after the attack, Iraq's leaders came together and acted to restore calm and end the violence. They deployed Iraqi security forces to Baghdad and other areas threatened by violence. These forces moved rapidly and effectively to protect religious sites, enforce a curfew, and re-establish civil order where necessary. We commend them for their good work.

The situation in Iraq is still tense. Reports of kidnappings and executions are being taken very seriously. The Iraqi government has made clear that such violent attacks cannot be tolerated. The vast majority of Iraqis have shown they want a future of freedom and peace.

By their response over the past two weeks and their participation in three successful elections last year, the Iraqi people have made clear they will not let a violent minority take that future away by tearing the country apart. And the Iraqi security forces have shown that they are capable of rising above sectarian divisions to protect the unity of a free Iraq.

The effective performance of the Iraqi security forces during this crisis showed that our hard work to build up and train these forces is paying off. In the coming months, we will help prepare more Iraqi battalions to take the lead in battle, and Iraqi forces will assume responsibility over more territory. Our goal is to have the Iraqis control more territory than the Coalition forces by the end of this year. And as Iraqis assume responsibility over more territory, this frees American and Coalition forces to concentrate on hunting down high-value targets like the terrorist Zarqawi and his associates.

As we take the fight to the terrorists, they realize they cannot defeat us directly in battle, so they have resorted to brutal attacks against innocent Iraqis and American forces using improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. IEDs are homemade bombs that can be hidden in cars or by the side of a road and detonated remotely, using everyday devices like garage door openers and cordless phones.

These weapons are now the principal threat to our troops and to the future of a free Iraq -- and to defeat this threat, my Administration has established a new high-level command at the Department of Defense, led by retired four-star General Montgomery Meigs. This weekend, General Meigs is briefing me at the White House on our plan to defeat the threat of IEDs. We're harnessing every available resource, the ingenuity of our best scientists and engineers, and the determination of our military to defeat this threat -- and we're not going to rest until this danger to our troops has been removed.

In the coming days, there will be considerable reflection on the removal of Saddam Hussein from power and our remaining mission in Iraq. The last three years have tested our resolve. The fighting has been tough. The enemy we face has proved to be brutal and relentless. We have changed our approach in many areas to reflect the hard realities on the ground. And the sacrifice being made by our young men and women who wear the uniform has been heartening and inspiring.

Amid the daily news of car bombs and kidnappings and brutal killings, I can understand why many of our fellow citizens are now wondering if the entire mission was worth it. I strongly believe our country is better off with Saddam Hussein out of power. Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was an enemy of America who shot at our airplanes, had a history of pursuing and using weapons of mass destruction, threatened and invaded his neighbors, ordered the death of thousands of his citizens, and supported terrorism.

After the liberation of the Iraqi people, al Qaida and their affiliates have made Iraq the central front on the war on terror. By helping the Iraqi people build a free and representative government, we will deny the terrorists a safe haven to plan attacks against America. The security of our country is directly linked to the liberty of the Iraqi people. This will require more difficult days of fighting and sacrifice, yet I am confident that our strategy will result in victory, and then our troops can come home with the honor they have earned.

- George W. Bush, Radio Address, March 11, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/03/20060311.html


VARGAS: But what is the plan if the sectarian violence continues? I mean, do the U.S. troops take a larger role? Do they step in more actively to stop the violence?

BUSH: No. The troops are chasing down terrorists. They're protecting themselves and protecting the people, and — but a major function is to train the Iraqis so they can do the work. I mean the ultimate success in Iraq — and I believe we're going to be successful — is for the Iraqi citizens to continue to demand unity.   And remember, one of the things that's lost during this troubled week — and there's no question it's a troubled week — was the fact that 11 million Iraqis, about two months ago, went to the polls and said, "We want to have a democratic government." So there's still a will of the people there that are interested in a unified government.  Secondly, we're working with the leaders to form this unity government, and we'll see how it goes. We're making pretty good progress though. And I think the bombers really caused the leaders to say, "Wait a minute. We now have got to project civil war or civil strife or sectarian violence."  And the other side of the equation has got to be to train the Iraqis to fight so that the people feel like there is a unified security force that's interested in protecting them from a few people who are trying to sow violence and discord.

VARGAS: But there is a concern that when you talk to these political leaders that they don't wield the real power in Iraq, that it's the clerics that wield the power and the clerics who are controlling these militias, the militias who were responsible for most of the violence in the last few days.

BUSH: Well, Ayatollah Sistani, who is by far — not by far — is one of the most revered clerics, has made it very clear that this type of violence is not acceptable, and that he calls for a unified government. And matter of fact, many of the clerics have spoken out for a peaceful unified future for Iraq.  And there's no — look, these are — there are people that don't want to see democracy, and the reason why is because it defeats their vision of a totalitarian type government from which they can launch either attacks on America or future instability in the Middle East. You're witnessing this ideological struggle that's taking place, and Iraq happens to be the battle front for that struggle right now.  And I believe we're — we will prevail, and the definition of prevailing is an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself, an Iraq that is not a safe haven for people like Zarqawi or al Qaeda and its affiliates, an Iraq which becomes an ally in the war on terror.

VARGAS: So let me make sure I understand you. No matter what happens with the level of sectarian violence, the U.S. troops will stay there?

BUSH: The U.S. troops will stay there so long as — until the Iraqis can defend themselves. I mean, my policy has not changed. To summarize it, as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.  And as you know, we've reduced troop levels this year, and that's because our commanders on the ground have said that the security situation in Iraq is improving because the Iraqis are more capable of taking the fight.

VARGAS: And if in fact the violence continues, will the Americans be forced to take a more active role in suppressing it?

BUSH: Well, the Americans are very active right now taking a role in suppressing it.

VARGAS: But as I said at the beginning, there's a lot of criticism from both the Sunnis and the Shiites that they weren't doing enough to stop the killing, and it was a lot of killing that happened after the upset attack.

BUSH: Well, I understand the criticism. It's also difficult sometimes to stop suicide bombers, and — but the Americans are — as well as coalition forces, and more importantly, the Iraqis themselves are patrolling and trying to keep neighborhoods safe.

- George W. Bush, Interview with ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas, February 28, 2006

source:  http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=1671087&page=1

Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures


Our own strategy in the conflict is clear: We're hunting down high-value targets like al Zarqawi and his lieutenants. Our soldiers and Marines are conducting smart, focused, aggressive, counterterrorism operations in the areas where the terrorists are known to be concentrated. And our coalition continues to train more Iraqi forces to assume increasing responsibility for their nation's security. As more and more Iraqi security forces complete their training, they're taking on greater responsibility in these efforts. Iraqi troops are increasingly taking the lead in joint operations, conducting independent operations, and expanding the reach and the effectiveness of our own forces.

And as Iraqi security forces grow in size and capability, we're becoming better able to keep urban centers out of the hands of terrorists. One of the challenges we faced was that after clearing out terrorists, there have not always been enough trained Iraqi forces to maintain control. So when coalition forces moved on, terrorists would try to move back in. More and more, however, we're able to leave Iraqi troops in charge because they are increasingly well equipped, properly trained, familiar with the territory, and often can tell who the terrorists are, therefore are able to maintain control. Meanwhile, coalition forces are able to go forward and deal with the threat in other parts of the country, as well as to strengthen security at the borders.

At present, Iraqi personnel are collecting good intelligence, working with civic and religious leaders, and gaining greater confidence among the Iraqi people. This is an ongoing process, obviously, and standing up a capable, effective military requires a patient and a sustained effort. Yet the progress is steady. It is moving in the direction we want, and the people in charge of the effort are doing a superb job. The goal we share with Iraq's government is a full transition to security and to self-reliance, a nation with a constitutionally elected government and capable security forces, an Iraq that is at peace with neighbors and an ally for us in the war on terror.

Going forward, as the Iraqi security forces grow in strength and the political process continues to advance, we'll be able to reduce troop levels without losing our capacity to defeat the terrorists. And in the months ahead, any decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground and the judgment of our commanders -- not by artificial time lines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.

The terrorists understand what is at stake in Iraq. That's why they commit acts of horror, calculated to shock and to intimidate the civilized world -- beheading men, murdering mothers and children, and killing innocent Iraqis in police stations, mosques, buses, restaurants, stores and on street corners.

Last week terrorists attacked the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest sites for Shiite Muslims, in a clear attempt to ignite a civil war. We can expect further acts of violence and destruction by the enemies of freedom. Yet the Iraqi people have expressed their own desire for liberty by voting in free elections three different times over the last year, and we remain optimistic that Iraq's political factions will work together in forming a stable, viable representative government. We expect, as well, that as freedom takes hold, the ideologies of hatred and resentment will lose their appeal, and the advance of democracy in Iraq will inspire reformers across the broader Middle East.

And as this region experiences new hope and progress, we will see the power of freedom to change our world, and a terrible threat will be removed from the lives of our children and grandchildren.

I know that most of you have heard the political debates that have been going on here in Washington. Some have suggested this war is not winnable, and a few seem almost eager to conclude that the struggle is already lost. They are wrong. The only way to lose this fight is to quit -- and quitting is not an option.

Some of the comments heard in Washington have sent mixed signals to our troops in the field. Our military has at times been unfairly criticized, as when one prominent senator said on national television that American soldiers were, "terrorizing" Iraqi women and children in their homes. Just before Christmas, I went to Iraq and had a chance to meet with some of our men and women serving there. I told them that we're proud of them, and of the progress they're making every day. I assured them that the American people do not support a policy of resignation and defeatism in a time of war.

Here in Washington, if any believe America should suddenly withdraw from Iraq and stop fighting al Qaeda in the very place they have gathered, let them say so clearly. If any believe that America should break our word and abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, let them make it known. If any believe that America should be safer -- or would be safer with men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of Iraq, let them try to make that case.

The reality is that bin Laden and Zarqawi regard Iraq as the central front in the war on terror. We must do the same. And this nation has made a decision: We will stand by our friends, and engage our enemies with the goal of victory. As the President said in the State of the Union, "We are in this fight to win, and we are winning."

- U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Vice President's Remarks at the 46th Annual American Legion Conference, February 28, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/02/20060228-2.html


We're carrying out our clear strategy of victory in Iraq. On the political side, we're helping Iraqis build a strong democracy so old resentments will be eased and the insurgency marginalized. On the economic side, we're continuing reconstruction efforts and helping Iraqis build a modern economy so all Iraqi citizens can experience the benefits of freedom.

And on the security side, we're striking terrorist targets, and at the same time, training Iraqis which are becoming increasingly capable of carrying the fight to the enemy. Our strategy in Iraq is, as the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down. Troop levels on the ground will be decided by commanders on the ground -- not by politicians in Washington, D.C.

In all aspects of our strategy, we've learned from experience. We've learned from the good advice of people like Chairman Warner. We're fixing what hadn't worked. We'll continue to make changes as necessary to complete the mission, to meet the objective, and that is a country which can sustain itself, defend itself, protect itself, and serve as a strong ally in the war on terror.

- George W. Bush, President Addresses American Legion, Discusses Global War on Terror, February 24, 2006

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/02/20060224.html


And we have a plan to achieve victory. Victory is a state -- a democracy that can sustain itself and defend itself and join America in fighting the war on terror. That's the goal of victory. That's the definition of victory.

First part of our strategy is a political strategy. I try to tell people how I make decisions, and part of making good decisions is you've got to believe something. You have a belief system that, by the way, can't alter because of politics, or polls, or focus groups, or what somebody wants you to think. And I believe that freedom is universal. I believe that deep in everybody's soul is the desire to be free. That's what I believe. I don't believe freedom or liberty is confined here to Methodists from Texas. I believe everybody wants to be free -- white, black, brown, Muslim, Jew, Christian, agnostic. I believe there is a deep desire for people to be free.

And if you believe that, then you have faith in people demanding freedom, if given a chance. And the Iraqis proved that theory right. Eleven million people went to the polls in the face of unbelievable terror, terrorist threats, and said, I want to be free; let me vote; let me decide my future. And so on the political front, they're making progress because of the courage of the Iraqis.

And now the task at hand is to work with those who won votes in the new parliament to set up a unity government; one that is -- can help deal with the grievances of the past; one that unites under the fabric of democracy. And that's what we're doing. I talked to the Ambassador, Zal Khalilzad, there yesterday. He's spent a lot of time working with making our position known that we want the government to be a unified government.

Secondly, we're helping the country rebuild itself after years of neglect, so that people can see the benefits of democracy. And we started off initially with kind of these grand projects. We got the Congress to appropriate money, and we tried to build some great electricity-type renovations, and the enemy kept blowing them up. And so we've altered our strategy. One of the things that you've got to do in a situation like this is constantly adjust. You can't just get stuck in one kind of response mode. You've got to think and watch the enemy and adjust to the enemy in order to achieve an objective. And we're doing that. And so now we've got much smaller-scale projects that are yielding instant results for the people on the ground, so people say, wait a minute, this democracy deal is a pretty good thing, you know.

Businesses are flourishing in Iraq. Freedom is coming, freedom is coming. There's a determined enemy trying to stop it, of course. They can't stand freedom. I told you, they think the exact opposite we do. They don't believe that everybody desires to be free. They want everybody to live under their totalitarian thumb. That's what they want. Not America and our coalition. We want governments to be responsible and responsive to the people. That's what we believe in.

Thirdly, in order to achieve our objective, the Iraqis are going to have to fight the enemy. They've proven their worth, in terms of defying the terrorists when it comes to making the vote, and they're proving their desire to defend themselves against the enemy, too. You know how I know? I'm listening to the people on the ground. I talk to our commanders a lot. They're the ones who are giving me the appraisal about how well these Iraqis are being trained.

An interesting measurement, right off the bat, however, was how the Iraqis responded to these attacks on the police stations and the recruiting stations. You remember they had a series of attacks on the recruiting stations? Guess what my question was to them out there -- are there still people lining up to join up? If you're getting blown up standing in line, are they still coming? And the answer was, absolutely. And we're training them, and there's a command structure -- command and control structure getting in place. And this military is getting better and better. We're turning over a lot of territory to the Iraqis. They now have two divisions, which is a lot of folks, that are capable of taking the fight nearly on their own. The training mission is working.

So on the security side, we're on the hunt. We're after Zarqawi. See, he wants us to leave. He believes we'll lose our nerve so he can establish a safe haven in Iraq. And we're not going to let him do it. And so we've got great special operators and U.S. forces and coalition forces on the hunt. And at the same time, we're training the Iraqis.

There's a big debate in Washington about who gets to decide the troop levels. Well, those troop levels will be decided by this administration. And this administration is going to listen not to politicians, but to the commanders on the ground, about what we need on the ground in order to win this deal.

After I leave here, I'm going to go visit with a family of one of the fallen troops. I have to be able to look that person in the eye, and say, the cause is just. I believe it is just and necessary. And I have to look that person in the eye and say that the sacrifice of your loved one will not go in vain, that we will complete the mission. And that's what I want to assure my fellow citizens. No matter what it looks like in Washington, D.C., I'm committed to victory in Iraq so to achieve peace.

And so in the short-term, we're going to succeed in Iraq. We'll deny them safe haven. We'll stay on the hunt. But there has to be a long-term strategy, as well, to win. And that long-term strategy is to liberate people and give them the chance to live under the greatest system of government ever, and that's democracy -- because democracies respond to people.

You know, our foreign policy in the broader Middle East for a long period of time was just kind of tolerate the status quo and hope for the best. It didn't work. The surface looked placid, but beneath the surface was brewing resentment and anger and fertile recruiting opportunities for those who have got a dark vision of the future. And so we're working to help the Iraqis develop a democracy.

- George W. Bush, President Discusses Global War on Terror Following Briefing at CENTCOM, February 17, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/02/20060217-4.html


[The Sign Reads:  "THE PEOPLE OF BASRAH WANT THE BRITISH OCCUPATION FORCES TO GO OUT"]

Iraqis shout slogans as they hold up their national flag during a protest against the British forces in Basra, 550 km (341miles) south of Baghdad February 14, 2006. Local officials in southern Iraq have voted to maintain a boycott of British-led forces after the release of a video apparently showing British troops beating Iraqi teenagers in 2004, officials said on Tuesday.

Photo by REUTERS/Atef Hassan


We're carrying out a clear strategy for victory in Iraq. First, we're helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old resentments will be eased, and the insurgency marginalized. Second, we're continuing reconstruction efforts and helping Iraqis build a modern economy, so all Iraq's citizens can experience the benefits of freedom. And, third, we're striking terrorist targets, we're after the terrorists; and at the same time we're training Iraqi forces which are becoming increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. The Iraqi forces show courage every day. We are proud to be the allies in the cause of freedom. As Iraqis stand up, America and our coalition will stand down.

Many of you are concerned about troop levels in Iraq. Those decisions will be made based upon conditions on the ground, based upon the recommendations of our military commanders -- not based upon politics in Washington, D.C.

- George W. Bush, President Discusses Progress in War on Terror to National Guard, February 9, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/02/20060209-2.html


We're on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. First, we're helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old resentments will be eased and the insurgency will be marginalized.

Second, we're continuing reconstruction efforts, and helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern economy, so all Iraqis can experience the benefits of freedom. And, third, we're striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. Iraqis are showing their courage every day, and we are proud to be their allies in the cause of freedom.

Our work in Iraq is difficult because our enemy is brutal. But that brutality has not stopped the dramatic progress of a new democracy. In less than three years, the nation has gone from dictatorship to liberation, to sovereignty, to a constitution, to national elections. At the same time, our coalition has been relentless in shutting off terrorist infiltration, clearing out insurgent strongholds, and turning over territory to Iraqi security forces. I am confident in our plan for victory; I am confident in the will of the Iraqi people; I am confident in the skill and spirit of our military. Fellow citizens, we are in this fight to win, and we are winning.

The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home. As we make progress on the ground, and Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels -- but those decisions will be made by our military commanders, not by politicians in Washington, D.C.

Our coalition has learned from our experience in Iraq. We've adjusted our military tactics and changed our approach to reconstruction. Along the way, we have benefitted from responsible criticism and counsel offered by members of Congress of both parties. In the coming year, I will continue to reach out and seek your good advice. Yet, there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure.  Hindsight alone is not wisdom, and second-guessing is not a strategy.

With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, would put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country, and show that a pledge from America means little. Members of Congress, however we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our nation has only one option: We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American military in this vital mission.

- George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 31, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060131-10.html


It's very important for those who didn't agree with the decision, though, to understand the consequences of success in Iraq. It's really important we succeed, for a lot of reasons.

And the definition of success, by the way, is for there to be a country where the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten the democracy, and where Iraqi security forces can provide for the security of their people, and where Iraq is not a safe haven from which the terrorists -- al Qaeda and its affiliates -- can plot attacks against America.

We got a strategy, and I'm going to keep talking about the strategy -- it will yield a victory. And the strategy is political security and economic in nature. In economic, we're going to help them rebuild their country, help secure their oil supply so they'll have cash flow in order to invest in their people.

On the political front, you've seen it -- you've seen what happened in one year's time. It's just amazing, I think. I guess, we take it for granted -- some of us do. I don't. The fact that people have gone from living under the clutches of a tyrant who ordered the murder of thousands of his own citizens, to a society in which people last year started voting -- voting for an interim government, voting for a constitution, and then voting for a permanent government under the new constitution. The government is now -- they're beginning to form.

In other words, you're seeing a lot of sharp elbows, probably kind of like American politics seem to some people, a lot of throwing of sharp elbows. You didn't see a lot of elbows, political elbows being thrown under the tyrant, did you? That's because tyrants don't allow for the political process to evolve. But we're watching the political process evolve, made complicated by the fact that the terrorists still want to cause destruction and death as this government is forming to try to stop it.

We got to step back and ask why. Why would they want to stop democracy? And the answer, because democracy stands for the exact opposite of their vision. Liberty is not their credo. And they understand a defeat to their ideology by the establishment of a free Iraq will be a devastating blow for their vision.

And so the Iraqis are showing incredible courage. When somebody says, if you vote, I'm going to get you, sometimes people maybe say, well, maybe I don't want to vote. Eleven million or so Iraqis went to the polls in defiance of these killers.  It's a magical moment in the history of liberty.

And then on the security front, our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down. Look, we want the Iraqis to be prepared to take the fight to the enemy. Let me talk about the enemy real quick in Iraq. There are what we call "rejectionists." These are Sunnis that kind of like the fact that they -- even though a minority inside the country -- had the upper hand for a long period of time with Saddam. And they're worried about whether or not a constitution that says it will protect minority rights actually will protect minority rights. But the good news is, more and more Sunnis started to vote. And if you watch the news, they're beginning to negotiate, they're beginning to see a better way. In other words, the political process is beginning to marginalize the remaining elements of those who are trying to stop the progress.

One of those elements is Saddamists. These are the thugs that kind of control the country. They loved power; they don't want to give it up. And they'd like to return to the good old days, which isn't going to happen.

And the other group of course, is the al Qaeda types, Mr. Zarqawi, who wants us to leave Iraq. They want us to get out of Iraq so Iraq can be a safe haven. It is their stated objective: Don't worry, take your time, keep killing the innocent because America will lose its will. That's what the enemy has said. That's their words.

The way to defeat the enemy is for the political process to marginalize the rejectionists, and for us to train the Iraqi forces so they can find the few that want to dash the hopes of the many, and that's what we're doing.

Our strategy is twofold: We're on the hunt for the terrorists, and we're training Iraqis. And we're making decent progress. There are more and more Iraqi units in the fight. There's more and more country being turned over to the Iraqis. We got a lot of bases around Iraq, and more of those bases are being given to the Iraqi troops.

This is the year that we'll not only continue to focus on the troops, we'll continue to train Iraqi police. We've seen some problems about what it means to have lived in a society where people want to seek revenge. In other words, they use their police -- status as a police person to take it out on others because of past grievances. That's not acceptable to the United States of America. And it's not acceptable to most Iraqis, either.

And so part of the training for police is not only to give them the capacity to handle the enemy, but to make sure they understand human rights and ethics involved with police work. And so that's what you'll be seeing. You're going to see more Iraqi troops in the fight, and more police providing security. And as a result, our commanders on the ground informed me that they thought we could reduce our troop level from the 168,000 that were there -- 165,000, more or less, that were there for the election -- below 138,000.

Now, I want to emphasize something to you, you heard me say, "our commanders on the ground said," you see, sometimes in the political process people feel beholden to polls and focus groups. You don't have to worry about me. I'm going to be listening to the people that know what they're talking about, and that's the commanders on the ground in Iraq.  They'll make the decisions. They will give the advice. Conditions on the ground will dictate our force levels over the next year, but the strategy is what I said it is: We'll stay on the offense, and we'll give these brave Iraqis the skills and training necessary to defend their own democracy.

Look, this enemy cannot beat us. They cannot defeat us militarily. There's no chance. The one weapon they have, which is a lethal weapon, is the willingness to kill people. I remember the story -- and it just broke my heart to think about the young soldier that was giving candy to a kid, and they set off the car bomb next to the kids. I mean, it's just -- I cannot describe to you how brutal these people are. And they understand that their scenes will get on TV. And I don't know if they can adequately understand the compassion of the American people. But we're compassionate.

I told you one of the great beliefs of our country is every life matters, every person counts -- whether it be a child here in America, or a child in Iraq. And they understand. And so part of my decision-making process is to understand the strength of the enemy -- the only strength they have -- and continue to remind the people that is their only strength, and the only way we can lose is if we lose our nerve and our will. The American people are resolute. They are strong. And we're not going to lose our will to these thugs and murderers.

- George W. Bush, President Discusses Global War on Terror at Kansas State University, January 23, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060123-4.html


Powell: US will pull troops out this year

Former Bush aide who urged caution over Iraq signals start of withdrawal by end of 2006

Ned Temko
Sunday January 22, 2006
The Observer


Colin Powell, who warned President Bush on the eve of the Iraq war that US forces would have to stay for the long haul after toppling Saddam, yesterday predicted that troop withdrawals would begin by the end of this year.

He spoke as final results of the elections for a new Iraqi government left the Shia Muslim alliance 10 seats short of an outright parliamentary majority - boosting US and British hopes of a coalition including Sunni and Kurdish groups. Britain's ambassador to Iraq, William Patey, said after the results were announced that an 'inclusive government of national unity' would help chances of a 'significant' withdrawal of the UK's 8,000 troops.

Powell, the former Secretary of State, told The Observer that, while the 'characteristics of the new government' would be clearer in the weeks ahead, the US role was to 'make sure the process [of transition] unfolds successfully'.

During his policy battles with Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon hawks in the run-up to the Iraq war, Powell at one point reportedly cautioned Bush: 'If you break it, you own it.' Since stepping down as the administration's senior diplomat after the 2004 presidential election, he has reiterated his view that America must not cut and run.

But asked whether his 'break-it-and-own it' remark implied staying for as long as it takes to get a fully functioning and stable Iraq, Powell replied: 'No. It means fixing it to the point where we can give ownership back,' - a process which he suggested had taken a major step forward with the election of the new Iraqi government.

'We did break that [Saddam] government and I'm glad we broke it,' he said. 'It was a rotten government and something that should be broken. But we then immediately assumed ownership - and we've been working hard for the past two-plus years to return that ownership.'

Powell, who also served as America's military chief-of-staff, said the specific numbers and pace of US troop pull-outs would be decided by 'my junior officers', generals whom he said he had trained as lieutenants. But he said: 'I think we'll probably see some drawdown in numbers in 2006.

'I hope we'll see a reduction in forces as the Iraqi forces become more competent and the Iraqi political system begins to take hold,' he added.

His remarks came amid growing pressure on Bush's administration over Iraq, where 160,000 US troops form by far the largest share of the international military force and where more than 2,000 American soldiers have been killed.

Recent media reports have suggested the Pentagon has plans in place to begin to reduce the number of US troops, but Bush has emphasised that he remains committed to ensuring that a democratic government in Baghdad and Iraq's own security forces can exert control before any full-scale pull-out.

Powell was speaking after a visit to Britain last week to address a series of fundraising dinners for the JNF, a British Jewish charity. In remarks during his visit, he said that in retrospect he felt the Americans should have committed more troops to the Iraqi invasion and ensured that law, order and a functioning government were in place when Saddam's regime collapsed. In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle, he added that 'when the insurgency started, we didn't act quickly enough to try to stop it'. But, he added, 'that's all history... the more important issue is what we do now'.

Speaking to The Observer, Powell was generally upbeat about the prosects [sic] for early progress in the move to hand over ownership to the Iraqis.

- The Observer, Sunday January 22, 2006

source:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1692158,00.html

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006


I brought that same message to our people serving in Iraq. These Americans in uniform have been absolutely relentless in their duties -- going out every day, striking the enemy, conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, capturing killers. They have faced long deployments, the hardship of separation from home and family, the loss of comrades. Their efforts are bringing us closer to the goal we share with Iraq's leaders: a democratic country that can defend itself; a nation that will never again be a safe zone for terrorists; and a model for peaceful democratic reform in a troubled region. When that goal is achieved, all of us will live in a safer world.

Our strategy in Iraq is clear, our tactics will remain flexible; we'll keep at the work until we finish the job. Progress has not come easily, but it has been steady.

A short time ago, the Iraqi people had an appointed government, no popularly elected legislature, no permanent constitution, no recent experience with free national elections. In less than a year they have drafted a progressive, democratic constitution; then approved the document in a national referendum; and elected a new government under its provisions. And in each successive election in Iraq going back to January a year ago there's been less violence, broader participation, and bigger voter turnout. Iraqis have shown they value their own liberty and that they are determined to choose their own destiny.

Our coalition has also put great effort into standing up the Iraqi Security Forces, and we've come a great distance over the past year. We're helping to build an Iraqi force that is well equipped and trained, and that was vital in the success of last month's elections. As the security force grows in strength and as the political process advances, we will eventually be able to decrease troop levels without losing any capacity to do battle with the terrorists.

Going forward, any decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground and by the judgment of our commanders -- not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.

...

Lately our forces in Iraq have been receiving some mixed signals out of Washington, and they might have been wondering whether America has what it takes to stay in the fight. When I visited Iraq and Afghanistan, I assured our forces that the American people do not support a policy of passivity, resignation, and defeatism in the face of terror. This nation made a decision: We will never go back to the false comforts of the world before September 11th, 2001. We will engage these enemies with the goal of victory. And with the American military in the fight, that victory is certain.

...

- U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Vice President's Remarks on Iraq and the War on Terror at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, January 19, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060119-5.html


The Italian government has announced that it will pull its troops out of Iraq by the end of the year.

Defence Minister Antonio Martino's statement marked the first official confirmation of a timetable.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had recently hinted that Italy's 2,500 contingent could return home in 2006.

The country's involvement in the war, which has been deeply unpopular among Italians, is likely to be a key issue in April's general election.

'Mission accomplished'

Mr Martino said troops would be withdrawn gradually throughout the year and replaced with a civilian force.

He told a parliament committee the pull-out timetable had been agreed in conjunction with coalition forces in Iraq.

"The military operation Antica Babilonia [Ancient Babylon] will end its mandate gradually over the course of the year 2006 and the mission will be considered over and accomplished at the end of the year," said Mr Martino.

The main opposition parties had said they would bring the troops home immediately if they won the 9 April election.

Italy, a staunch ally of the Bush administration, sent about 3,000 soldiers to Iraq to help with the reconstruction in the south after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The force has come under several attacks, the worst being in November 2003 when 19 Italians, mostly police officers, were killed in a suicide attack in Nasiriya.

A majority of Italians oppose the war in Iraq.

- Italy to pull out of Iraq in 2006, BBC, January 19, 2006

source:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4628500.stm

(C) BBC MMVI


Q Secondly, Walter Cronkite, the noted CBS anchor, former anchor has landed apparently in the same position as John Murtha, saying that we should withdraw our troops from Iraq. Does the President feel as Lyndon Johnson felt in the early 1970s, when Cronkite made his statements at that time that he has lost the support of middle America in this --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the American people clearly understand the importance of winning in Iraq. And we have a clear strategy to prevail in Iraq. And that's what the President has been talking to the American people about. People want our troops to come home, and the way to get our troops home is to be successful.

And I think if we look at recent comments from a videotape of al Qaeda's number two man, Zawahiri, it only underscores the importance of winning in Iraq, and it underscores that the terrorists recognize the stakes involved there. They know that when we are successful in Iraq, it will be a major blow to their ambitions. Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism, and that's why it's so critical that we continue moving forward on our strategy for victory. And that's exactly what we'll do. Withdrawal would be a disaster.

U.S. White House spokesman Scott McClellan, Press Briefing, January 17, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060117-3.html


But let me talk real quick about the goals in Iraq. The goal is victory, nothing short of victory. When you put these kids in harm's way, we owe them the best equipment, the best training, and a strategy for victory. And victory is a country that -- where the Saddamists and the terrorists can't unwind the democracy. Victory is when Iraq is no longer a safe haven for the terrorists. Victory is -- will be achieved when the Iraqis are able to defend their democracy.

In the last couple of weeks, I've been talking about the strategy to achieve victory. It's one thing to say we want victory; the other thing is, can you get there? And the answer is, absolutely, we can get there. And the strategy is threefold. One, there's a political strategy. First let me make sure you understand the enemy. The enemy is, in our judgment, my judgment, three types of people. One, we call them rejectionists -- these are Sunnis who had privileged status under Saddam Hussein, even though they were in the minority the country. They had a pretty good deal because the tyrant was a Sunni, and made sure that the Sunnis got special treatment, as opposed to the Shia or the Kurds. And they liked that kind of special treatment. They liked privileged status.

The second group is the Saddam loyalists. These are the thugs and people that basically robbed the country blind, and not only got privilege status, but they were the all-powerful. And needless to say, they don't like it with their man sitting in prison and them no longer being able to exploit the people of Iraq. They're irritated.

Finally, the third group, and this is a dangerous group -- it's al Qaeda and its affiliates. A guy named Zarqawi is the chief operating officer in Iraq on behalf of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has made it very clear their intentions in Iraq, which is to drive the United States out so they will have a base from which to operate to spread their ideology. That's what they have said. This is what Mr. Zawahiri said. It's important for those of us involved in trying to protect you to take the enemy seriously, to listen to their words closely. In other words, al Qaeda has made Iraq a front in the war on terror. And that's why we've developed a strategy for victory.

The first part of it is to have a political process that marginalizes the rejectionists and isolates the dissenters. And it's happening. Under any objective measurement, what took place last year in Iraq was remarkable, when you think about it. This country is a country that lived under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, and last year they had elections for a transitional government, they wrote a constitution and got the constitution approved, and then had elections for a permanent government under the new constitution -- all in one year.  And every election had more participants. And most importantly, in the last election, the rejectionists who had sat out the first couple of elections -- many Sunnis had sat out; they said, we're not going to be involved in the political process -- got involved. Slowly but surely, those who were trying to stop the advance of democracy are becoming marginalized.

Secondly, this is a country, obviously, that has got brutal action -- this enemy we face has got no conscience. They will kill innocent people in a heartbeat in order to achieve their objectives. And it's hard for Americans to deal with that. I understand that. It's hard for me to believe that there is such brutality in the world where people going to a funeral to mourn the dead, and a suicider shows up and kills people. It's hard for me to believe that we've got soldiers passing out candy to young kids, and a killer comes and kills the kids and the soldiers. It is beyond the imagination of most Americans, but it should say something about this enemy. They will go to no ends to defeat us. But they can't beat us on the battlefield. The only thing they can do is create these brutal scenes.

And they're trying to drive us out of Iraq, as I mentioned. And the best way to deal with them is train Iraqis so they can deal with them. And that's what's happening. There are two aspects of our training. And, listen, the training hasn't gone smoothly all the time. I mean, this is a war. And you're constantly adjusting your strategies and tactics -- not strategies -- tactics on the ground to meet an enemy which is changing.

And so the army is getting on its feet. We've turned over a lot of territory to the army. And they're good fighters, they really are. I spent a great deal of time with General Abizaid and General Casey -- they were in Washington this past week -- these are generals, you'd be happy to hear, who tell me the way it is, not the way they think I would like it to be. I can't tell you how good the caliber of our military brass -- and those in the field, by the way, all the way up and down the line, are good, they are good people, better trained, not just numbers, I'm talking about capacity to take the fight and stay in the fight. And as I've said, as the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down. So the strategy, the security strategy is to let the Iraqis do the fighting. It's their country. The people have shown they want democracy. Millions voted. And now part of the mission is to give this government a security force which will help fight off the few who are trying to stop the hopes of the many.

One of the places where we've lagged is training police. There are three types of police. There's a national police force, kind of like a swat team, a national swat team, that can move -- they're pretty well trained. They need some human rights training. In other words, part of the problem in Iraq is you've got people that are plenty irritated at what took place in the past and they're going to use their positions of power to take revenge. You can't have a democracy in which the police don't enforce the rule of law, but enforce their view of revenge. And so you got ethics training, rule of law training -- all done by good troops who are embedded -- who are side-by-side with this Iraqi police force. And it's getting better, it really is.

Secondly, you've got the border patrol. The reason why the border is necessary is because there's suiciders coming in from Syria into Iraq. And the Iraqis have got to be able to enforce their border in order to be able to protect their democracy.

And thirdly, you've got local police, and we're lagging in the local police. And the local police -- it's just that, local. And so what we're going to do is use what worked in the Balkans and embed people in the local police units to teach them how to -- effective enforcements of the law. And so, 2006 you're going to see a lot of police training and a lot of police focus.

Finally, there's the economic and reconstruction front. We started up grand projects in Iraq when we first got there, said we're going to build some grand projects. It turns out a more effective use of reconstruction money was localize projects to empower those who were willing to take a risk for democracy with the capacity to say, follow me, your life is going to be better. By the way, democracy works in Iraq just like it does here -- you're going to vote for somebody who thinks that they can bring character to the office and they're going to help your life. Same anywhere else. You're out there campaigning; they want to know what are you going to do for me. And so part of the reconstruction effort was to focus on local reconstruction projects.

The Iraqi economy has got a great chance to succeed. They got oil and gas revenues. They had been having trouble getting some oil and gas revenues up to the levels we anticipated because of the infrastructure damage -- done by Saddam Hussein, by the way, and because the terrorists, every time there's some progress, tend to blow things up. Now, having said that, they got these surveys -- and I must confess I'm not much of a survey guy, but they got them, and most Iraqis are optimistic about the future. And as I said yesterday, they're willing to live with intermittent darkness, as opposed to the darkness -- and freedom -- as opposed to the darkness of tyranny. That's what you're seeing.

But this economy is going. Small businesses are flourishing. They got a -- they had to deal with gasoline subsidies. Saddam Hussein, in order to make sure people kept him around and thought he was all right -- they didn't have much choice, by the way, because he had a force behind him -- but nevertheless, he subsidized gasoline, which meant a lot of the central budget was going for subsidization of fuel, as opposed to education and health. And so the new government made a difficult decision, they started floating that price of gasoline up a little higher, to take the pressure off their budget and to introduce markets, market-based forces into the economy.

It's not going to happen overnight. You can't go from a tightly controlled economy to an open market overnight, but it's happening. In other words, the government is making difficult choices to help the entrepreneurial spirit begin to flourish.

And so things are good. I'm confident we'll succeed. And it's tough, though. The enemy has got one weapon -- I repeat to you -- and that's to shake our will. I just want to tell you, whether you agree with me, or not, they're not going to shake my will. We're doing the right thing.

A couple of quick points, then I'll answer your questions. You hear a lot of talk about troop levels. I'd just like to give you my thinking on troop levels. I know a lot of people want our troops to come home -- I do, too. But I don't want us to come home without achieving the victory.  We owe that to the mothers and fathers and husbands and wives who have lost a loved one. That's what I feel. I feel strongly that we cannot let the sacrifice, we can't let their sacrifice go in vain.

Secondly, I -- these troop levels will be decided by our commanders. If you run a business, you know what I'm talking about when I say -- it's called delegating. You count on people to give you good advice. The best people to give any politician advice about whether or not we're achieving a military objective is the people you put out there on the ground. I told you I've got good confidence in these generals and the people who report to them. These are honest, honorable, decent, very capable, smart people, and they'll decide the troop levels. They hear from me: Victory. And I say to them: What do you need to achieve victory?

I don't know if you've noticed recently, but we're beginning to reduce presence in Iraq based upon the recommendation of our commanders. We've gone from 17 to 15 battalions. We kept up to about 60,000 -- 160,000 troops in Iraq for the elections. We held over about 25,000 or so on a -- that were to rotate out to help in the elections. Those 25,000 are coming back, plus the reduced battalions. And people say, well, how about more for the rest of the year? And the answer to that is, I'm going to do what they tell me to do. And that depends upon the capacity of the Iraqis to help us achieve victory.

And why is victory important? Let me just conclude by this point. You know, it's hard for some to -- in our country to connect the rise of democracy with peace. This is an ideological struggle, as far as I'm concerned, and you defeat an ideology of darkness with an ideology of light and hope. History has proven that democracies yield the peace. If you really look at some of the past struggles where -- in which the United States has been involved, the ultimate outcome, the final product, was peace based upon freedom. Europe is whole, free, and at peace because of democracy.

One of the examples I like to share with people in order to make the connection between that which we're doing in Iraq today, and laying -- what I call, laying the foundation of peace, is my relationship with Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. And the reason I like to bring up this story is I find it amazing that my dad -- old number 41 -- at the age of 18, fought the Japanese. They were the sworn enemy of the United States. Many in this audience, I know, had relatives in that war. They were the bitter enemy. They had attacked us, just like we were attacked on September the 11th. People in America said, we'll do everything we can to defeat this enemy, and thousands of people lost their lives.

Laura and I were over in the Far East recently. I was sitting down at the table with the Prime Minister of our former enemy talking about how to keep the peace. We were talking about the spread of democracy in Iraq and in the Middle East as a way to counter an ideology that is backwards and hateful. We were talking about North Korea, how to keep the peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Isn't it amazing -- at least it is to me -- that some 60 years after an 18-year-old fighter pilot joined the Navy to fight the Japanese, his son is talking with the Prime Minister of the former enemy about keeping the peace. Something happened. And what happened was Japan adopted a Japanese-style democracy. Democracies yield the peace. And I firmly believe -- I firmly believe that years from now people are going to look back and say, thank goodness the new generation of Americans who rose to the challenge of a war against terror had faith in the capacity of freedom to help change the world. And someday an American President is going to be talking to a duly elected leader from Iraq, talking about how to keep the peace for a generation to come.

- George W. Bush, President Participates in Discussion on the Global War on Terror, January 11, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060111-7.html


Like earlier struggles for freedom, the war on terror is being fought on many battlefronts. Yet the terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity. And so we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war against the terrorists.

Our goal in Iraq is victory.  And in a series of speeches last December, I described the enemy we face in that country, our strategy to defeat them, and how we have adapted our tactics to meet changing conditions on the ground. Today, I've come before you to discuss what the American people can expect to see in Iraq in the year ahead. We will see more tough fighting and we will see more sacrifice in 2006, because the enemies of freedom in Iraq continue to sow violence and destruction. We'll also see more progress toward victory. Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy. Victory will come when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens. Victory will come when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation.

And when victory comes and democracy takes hold in Iraq, it will serve as a model for freedom in the broader Middle East.  History has shown that free nations are peaceful nations. And by helping Iraqis build a lasting democracy, we spread the hope of liberty across a troubled region, we will gain new allies in the cause of freedom. By spreading democracy and freedom, we're laying the foundation of peace for generations to come.

Our work in Iraq in 2006 will be focused on three critical areas. On the political side, we will help Iraqis consolidate the democratic gains they made last year, and help them build democratic institutions, a unified government, and a lasting free society. On the security side, we will stay on the offense against the terrorists and Saddamists. We will continue to strengthen the Iraqi security forces -- with an emphasis on improving the capabilities of the Iraqi police, so that over the next 12 months, Iraqi forces can take control of more territory from our coalition and take the lead in the fight.

And on the economic side, we will continue reconstruction efforts, and help Iraq's new government implement difficult reforms that are necessary to build a modern economy and a better life. In all three aspects of our strategy -- democracy and security and reconstruction -- we're learning from our experiences, and we're fixing what hasn't worked. And in the year ahead, we will continue to make every change that will help us complete the mission and achieve the victory we all want.

On the political side, we've witnessed a transformation in Iraq over the past 12 months that is virtually without precedent. Think back to a year ago. At this time last year, the Iraqi people had an appointed government, no elected legislature, no permanent constitution and no recent experience with free national elections. Just one year later, they have completed three successful nationwide elections.

Iraqis voted for a transitional government, drafted the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world, approved that constitution in a national referendum and elected a new government under their new constitution. Each successive election has seen less violence, bigger turnouts, and broader participation than the one before. One Iraqi voter in Tal Afar described the December elections this way: "We want democracy. This is our answer to the decades of slavery we had before."

When the final election results come in, Iraqi leaders will begin working to form a new government. And in the weeks ahead, Americans will likely see a good deal of political turmoil in Iraq as different factions and leaders compete for position and jockey for power. Our top commander in the region, General John Abizaid, has said he expects the coming weeks to produce "some of the hardest bare-knuckle politics ever in the Arab world." We should welcome this for what it is -- freedom in action.

Dictatorships seem orderly -- when one man makes all the decisions, there is no need for negotiation or compromise. Democracies are sometimes messy and seemingly chaotic, as different parties advance competing agendas and seek their share of political power. We've seen this throughout our own history. We've seen this in other democracies around the world. Yet out of the turmoil in Iraq, a free government will emerge that represents the will of the Iraqi people -- instead of the will of one cruel dictator.

Iraqis are undertaking this process with just a year's experience in democratic politics -- and the legacy of three decades under one of the world's most brutal tyrannies still hangs over them. Many of the institutions and traditions we take for granted in America -- from our party structures, to our centuries' experience with peaceful transitions of power -- are new to Iraq. So we shouldn't be surprised if Iraqis make mistakes and face setbacks in their effort to build a government that unites the Iraqi people.

Despite the obstacles they face, Iraqis have shown that they can come together for the sake of national unity. Think about what happened after the January 2005 elections -- Shia and Kurdish leaders who did well at the polls reached out to Sunni Arabs who failed to participate, giving them posts in the government, and a role in fashioning the constitution. Now Iraqis must reach out once again across political and religious and sectarian lines and form a government of national unity that gives a voice to all Iraqis.

Because Sunni Arabs participated in large numbers in the December elections, they will now have a bigger role in the new parliament -- and more influence in Iraq's new government. It's important that Sunnis who abandoned violence to join the political process now see the benefits of peaceful participation. Sunnis need to learn how to use their influence constructively in a democratic system to benefit their community and the country at large. And Shia and Kurds need to understand that successful free societies protect the rights of a minority against the tyranny of the majority.

The promise of democracy begins with free elections and majority rule -- but it is fulfilled by minority rights, and equal justice, and an inclusive society in which every person belongs. A country that divides into factions and dwells on old grievances cannot move forward -- and risks sliding back into tyranny. Compromise and consensus and power-sharing are the only path to national unity and lasting democracy. And, ultimately, the success of Iraqi democracy will come when political divisions in Iraq are driven not by sectarian rivalries, but by ideas, and convictions, and a common vision for the future.

When the new Iraqi government assumes office, Iraq's new leaders will face some tough decisions on issues such as security and reconstruction and economic reform. Iraqi leaders will also have to review and possibly amend the constitution to ensure that this historic document earns the broad support of all Iraqi communities. If the new parliament approves amendments, these changes will be once again taken to the Iraqi people for their approval in a referendum before the end of the year. By taking these steps, Iraqi leaders will bring their nation together behind a strong democracy -- and help to defeat the terrorists and the Saddamists.

America and our coalition partners will stand with the Iraqi people during this period of transition. We will continue helping Iraqis build an impartial system of justice, so they can replace the rule of fear with the rule of law. We'll help Iraqi leaders combat corruption by strengthening Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity -- so Iraqis can build a transparent, accountable government. And we will help Iraq's new leaders earn the confidence of their citizens, by helping them build effective government ministries.

It's especially important in the early months after Iraq's new government takes hold that its leaders demonstrate an ability to deliver measurable progress in the lives of the Iraqi people. So we will continue helping the new government to develop their ministries, to ensure they can lead effectively and produce real results for the Iraqi people.

The foreign terrorists and Saddamists will continue to fight this progress by targeting the citizens and institutions and infrastructure of a free Iraq. An enemy that sends suicide bombers to kill mourners at a funeral procession is an enemy without conscience.  These killers will stop at nothing to undermine the new government, divide the Iraqi people, and try to break their will. Yet with the recent elections, the enemies of a free Iraq have suffered a real defeat. The Saddamists and rejectionists are finding themselves increasingly marginalized, as Sunni Arabs who once rejected the political process are now participating in the democratic life of their country.

And as democracy takes hold in Iraq, the terrorists like Zarqawi and his al Qaeda associates are suffering major defeats. Zarqawi tried to stop the elections throughout the year 2005, and he failed. He tried to stop the writing and ratification of a new constitution, and he failed. The advance of freedom is destroying his and al Qaeda's greatest myth: These terrorists are not fighting on behalf of the Iraqi people against a foreign occupation -- they are fighting the will of the Iraqi people expressed in free elections.

In the face of these thugs and terrorists and assassins, the Iraqi people have sent a clear message to the world: Iraqis will not cower before the killers -- and the terrorists and regime loyalists are no match for millions of Iraqis determined to live in liberty.

As we help Iraqis strengthen their new government, we're also helping them to defend their young democracy. We're going to train the security forces of a free Iraq. We have been doing so and we will continue to do so in 2006. Last November, I described many of the changes we made over the past year to improve the training of the Iraqi army and the police. And we saw the fruits of those changes during the December elections. Iraqi forces took the lead in the election security. They were in the lead; we were there to help. They protected over 6,000 polling centers, they disrupted attacks, and they maintained order across the country.

Thanks in large part to their courage and skill, the number of attacks during the elections declined dramatically compared with last January's vote. One Iraqi General put it this way on election day: "All the time and money you have spent in training the Iraqi army -- you harvest it today."

The Iraqi security forces are growing in strength and in size, and they're earning the trust and confidence of the Iraqi people. And as Iraqis see their own countrymen defending them against the terrorists and Saddamists, they're beginning to step forward with needed intelligence. General Casey reports that the number of tips from Iraqis has grown from 400 in the month of March of 2005 to over 4,700 last month -- and that some of the new intelligence is being passed by Iraqi civilians directly to Iraqi soldiers and police. Iraqis are gaining confidence that their security forces can defeat the enemy, and that confidence is producing intelligence that is helping to turn the tide in freedom's way.

There's more work to be done in the year ahead. Our commanders tell me that the Iraqi army and police are increasingly able to take the lead in the fight. Yet the Iraqi police still lag behind the army in training and capabilities --and so one of our major goals in 2006 is to accelerate the training of the Iraqi police. We'll focus our efforts on improving the performance of three categories of the Iraqi police. First, we will work to improve the Special Police under the Ministry of Interior, who are fighting alongside the Iraqi army against the terrorists and Saddamists. Second, we will expand and strengthen the border police charged with securing Iraq's frontiers. And, third, we will increase our focus on training local station police, so they can protect their communities from the criminals and terrorists.

The Interior Ministry's Special Police are the most capable of the Iraqi police forces. There are now about 19,000 Iraqi Special Police trained and equipped -- which is near our goal for a complete force. Many of these Special Police forces are professional, they represent all aspects of society. But recently some have been accused of committing abuses against Iraqi civilians. That's unacceptable. That's unacceptable to the United States government; it's unacceptable to the Iraqi government, as well. And Iraqi leaders are committed to stopping these abuses. We must ensure that the police understand that their mission is to serve the cause of a free Iraq -- not to address old grievances by taking justice into their own hands.

To stop abuses and increase the professionalism of all the Iraqi Special Police units, we're making several adjustments in the way these forces are trained. We're working with the Iraqi government to increase the training Iraqi Special Police receive in human rights and the rule of law. We're establishing a new Police Ethics and Leadership Institute in Baghdad that will help train Iraqi officers in the role of the police in a democratic system -- and establish clear lesson plans in professional ethics for all nine Iraqi police academies. To improve their capability, we will soon begin implementing a program that has been effective with the Iraqi army -- and that is partnering U.S. battalions with Iraqi Special Police battalions. These U.S. forces will work with and train their Iraqi counterparts, helping them become more capable and professional, so they can serve and protect all the Iraqi's without discrimination.

Second, we're working to increase the number of border police that can defend Iraq's frontiers and stop foreign terrorists from crossing into that country. Iraqis now have 18,000 border police on the job, manning land and sea and air ports across the country. Our goal is to have a total of 28,000 Iraqi border police trained and equipped by the end of this year.

To better train Iraqi police, we've established a new customs academy in Basra. We're embedding border police transition teams with Iraqi units, made up of coalition soldiers and assisted by experts from our Department of Homeland Security. The Iraqi border police are growing increasingly capable and are taking on more responsibility. In November, these forces took the lead in protecting Iraq's Syrian border, with coalition forces playing a supporting role. In other words, they're beginning to take the lead and take responsibility for doing their duty to protect the new democracy. And as more skilled border police come on line, we're going to hand over primary responsibility for all of Iraq's borders to Iraqi border police later on this year.

Finally, we're helping Iraqis build the numbers and capabilities of the local station police. These are the Iraqi police forces that need the most work. There are now over 80,000 local police officers across Iraq -- a little more than halfway toward our goal of 135,000. To improve the capabilities of these local police, we're taking a concept that worked well in the Balkans and applying it to Iraq -- partnering local Iraqi police stations with teams of U.S. military police and international police liaison officers, including retired U.S. police officers.

These officers will work with provincial police chiefs across Iraq, and focus on improving local police forces in nine key cities that have seen intense fighting with the terrorists. By strengthening local police in these cities, we can help Iraqis provide security in areas cleared of enemy forces and make it harder for these thugs to return. And by strengthening Iraqi local police in these cities, we'll help them earn the confidence of the local population, which will make it easier for local leaders and residents to accelerate reconstruction and rebuild their lives.

The training of the Iraqi police is an enormous task and, frankly, it hasn't always gone smoothly. Yet we're making progress -- and our soldiers see the transformation up close. Army Staff Sergeant Dan MacDonald is a Philadelphia cop who helped train Iraqi police officers in Baghdad. He says this of his Iraqi comrades: "From where they were when we got here to where they are now, it's like two different groups of peoplea. They're hyped-up, they look sharp, they're a lot better with their weapons . I'd take these guys out with me back home." If he's going to take them back home in Philadelphia, they must be improving.

As we bring more Iraqi police and soldiers online in the months ahead, we will increasingly shift our focus from generating new Iraqi forces to preparing Iraqis to take primary responsibility for the security of their own country. At this moment, more than 35 Iraqi battalions have assumed control of their own areas of responsibility -- including nearly half of the Baghdad province, and sectors of south-central Iraq, southeast Iraq, western Iraq, and north-central Iraq. And in the year ahead, we will continue handing more territory to Iraqi forces, with the goal of having the Iraqis in control of more territory than the coalition by the end of 2006.

As Iraqi forces take more responsibility, this will free up coalition forces to conduct specialized operations against the most dangerous terrorists, like Zarqawi and his associates, so we can defeat the terrorists in Iraq so we do not have to face them here at home.  We will continue to hand over territory to the Iraqis so they can defend their democracy, so they can do the hard work, and our troops will be able to come home with the honor they have earned.

I've said that our strategy in Iraq can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. And with more Iraqi forces demonstrating the capabilities needed to achieve victory, our commanders on the ground have determined that we can decrease our combat forces in Iraq from 17 to 15 brigades by the spring of 2006. That's what they've decided. And when they decide something, I listen to them. This adjustment will result in a net decrease of several thousand troops below the pre-election baseline of 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. This decrease comes in addition to the reduction of about 20,000 troops who were in Iraq largely to assist with the security during the December elections.

Later this year, if Iraqis continue to make progress on the security and political sides, we expect to discuss further possible adjustments with the leaders of Iraq's new government. Having said this, all of my decisions will be based upon conditions on the ground, not artificial timetables set by Washington politicians.  Our commanders on the ground will have the forces they need to complete the mission and achieve victory in Iraq.

As we help Iraqis defend their democracy, we will continue to help Iraqis build their infrastructure and economy in the coming year. Iraqis face real challenges from the long-term economic damage caused by Saddam Hussein's regime. They face challenges because of acts of sabotage by the enemies of a free Iraq. Yet despite these challenges, our coalition and Iraqi leaders have made progress in a number of areas. Iraq now has a stable currency, an independent stock exchange, an independent Central Bank. Iraqis have new investment laws to welcome foreign capital, tax and commercial laws to encourage private sector growth, and a low-tariff trade regime that has opened Iraq's economy to the world. Under Saddam, private property was not protected. Today, Iraq's new constitution guarantees private property rights that are the foundation of any free society.

Iraqi leaders are also beginning to make the tough choices necessary to reform their economy -- such as easing gasoline subsidies. Until recently, government subsidies put the price of fuel in Iraq at artificially low prices -- really low prices. And that created incentives for black-market corruption and crime -- and changing these subsidies is a necessary step on the path for economic reform. So Iraqi leaders have begun a series of price increases aimed at dismantling the gas subsidy system. That's hard political work. But gasoline subsidies, along with other subsidies, consume over half of Iraq's annual budget; it diverts critical resources from health care and education and infrastructure and security. Addressing these subsidies will allow Iraqi leaders to better provide for their people and build a modern economy.

One of the biggest challenges facing Iraq is restoring the country's oil and electric power infrastructure. These sectors were devastated by decades of neglect. And since liberation, terrorists have targeted these areas for destruction. As a result, oil and power production are below pre-war levels. To help increase production, we're helping Iraqis better maintain their refineries, build their oil supply and transportation capabilities, improve their capacity to generate power, and better protect their strategic infrastructure.

The struggles with oil production and the shortage of electricity remain sources of frustration for the Iraqi citizens. Yet they're putting these challenges in perspective. Today, seven in 10 Iraqis say their lives are going well; nearly two-thirds expect things to improve even more in the next year. The vast majority of Iraqis prefer freedom with intermittent power to life in the permanent darkness of tyranny and terror. Iraqis are optimistic about the future, and their optimism is justified.

To realize their dreams, the Iraqi people still need help. And in the coming year, the international community must step up and do its part. So far, other nations and international organizations have pledged more than $13 billion in assistance to Iraq. Iraqis are grateful for this promised aid. So is the United States. Yet many nations have been slow to make good on their commitments.

I call on all governments that have pledged assistance to follow through with their promises as quickly as possible, so the Iraqis can rebuild their country and provide a better future for their children. Many nations have still not returned all the Iraqi assets frozen during the regime of Saddam Hussein. I call on all nations to return these assets to their rightful owners: The free people of Iraq own those assets, not the foreign governments.

Many of the world's smallest nations have been among the most generous. Last month, for example, Slovakia announced that it plans to forgive a hundred percent of Iraq's $145 million debt. This makes Slovakia only the third country, along with the United States and Malta, to write off Iraqi debt completely. More nations should do the same so the Iraq people are not held back by the crushing burden of debt accumulated by Saddam Hussein.

International lending institutions are also stepping forward with needed assistance. Last month, the International Monetary Fund approved Iraq's request for a $680 million loan to carry out economic reforms. The World Bank recently approved its first loan to Iraq in over 30 years, lending the Iraqi government $100 million to improve the Iraqi school system, and making up to $400 million available to fund water, electricity, roads and sanitation projects.

The international community must meet its responsibilities in Iraq -- and here in America we have responsibilities, as well. The coming year will test the character of our country, and the will of our citizens. We have a strategy for victory -- but to achieve that victory, we must have the determination to see this strategy through. The enemy in Iraq knows they cannot defeat us on the battlefield -- and so they're trying to shake our will with acts of violence, and force us to retreat. That means that our resolve in 2006 must stay strong. We must have patience as Iraqis struggle to build democracy in a volatile region of the world. We must not allow the images of destruction to discourage us, or obscure the real progress our troops are making in Iraq. And we must continue to provide these troops with all the resources they need to defend our nation and prevail in the global war on terror.

We face an added challenge in the months ahead: The campaign season will soon be upon us -- and that means our nation must carry on this war in an election year. There is a vigorous debate about the war in Iraq today, and we should not fear the debate. It's one of the great strengths of our democracy that we can discuss our differences openly and honestly -- even in times of war. Yet we must remember there is a difference between responsible and irresponsible debate -- and it's even more important to conduct this debate responsibly when American troops are risking their lives overseas.

The American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate when they see it. They know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted and partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people. And they know the difference between a loyal opposition that points out what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right.

When our soldiers hear politicians in Washington question the mission they are risking their lives to accomplish, it hurts their morale. In a time of war, we have a responsibility to show that whatever our political differences at home, our nation is united and determined to prevail. And we have a responsibility to our men and women in uniform -- who deserve to know that once our politicians vote to send them into harm's way, our support will be with them in good days and in bad days -- and we will settle for nothing less than complete victory.

We also have an opportunity this year to show the Iraqi people what responsible debate in a democracy looks like. In a free society, there is only one check on political speech -- and that's the judgment of the people. So I ask all Americans to hold their elected leaders to account, and demand a debate that brings credit to our democracy -- not comfort to our adversaries.

Support for the mission in Iraq should not be a partisan matter. VFW members come from all over the country, and both sides of the political aisle -- yet your position on the war is clear. In a recent resolution, the VFW declared, "it is critical that the United States succeed in Iraq, which will result in stability and security in the region." I appreciate your support for the mission in Iraq, and so do our troops in the fight. Your lives of service, from the first time you put on the uniform to this day, are a credit to our country and an inspiration to our military. A new generation of soldiers, and sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen is now carrying out an urgent and noble mission -- and they're doing so with the same determination and courage as you who came before them.

Some of our finest men and women have given their lives in freedom's cause. Others have returned home with wounds that the best medicine cannot heal. We hold all who sacrificed and their families in our thoughts and in our prayers. And I'm going to make you this pledge: We will not waver, we will not weaken, and we will not back down in the cause they served.  By their sacrifice, we are laying the foundation of freedom in a troubled part of the world. And by laying that foundation, we're laying the foundation of peace for generations to come.

- George W. Bush, President Addresses Veterans of Foreign Wars on the War on Terror, January 10, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060110-1.html


Americans understand what is at stake in that country [Iraq] -- and so do the terrorists. That is why they commit acts of random horror, calculated to shock and to intimidate the civilized world. The terrorists know that as freedom takes hold, the ideologies of hatred and resentment will lose their appeal, and the advance of democracy will inspire reformers across the broader Middle East. And as that region experiences new hope and progress, we will see the power of freedom to lift up whole nations, and the spread of liberty will produce a much safer world for our children and for our grandchildren.

The war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization; it's a battle worth fighting -- it's a battle we are going to win.

Our strategy in Iraq is clear, our tactics will remain flexible, and we'll work at the job until we finish it. Progress has not come easily, but it has been steady, and we can be confident going forward. By voting in free elections, by ratifying a constitution, by electing a government last month, Iraqis have shown they value their own liberty and are determined to choose their own destiny.

Our Coalition has also put great effort into standing up the Iraqi Security Forces, and we've come a great distance over the past year. We're helping to build an Iraqi force that is sharp and well equipped, and this was vital to the success of last month's elections. Gradually, Iraqi forces are taking control of more Iraqi territory -- and as they undertake further missions on their own, confidence is growing within the country and more and more intelligence tips are being provided by the Iraqi population.

As the ISF gains strength and experience, and as the political process advances, we'll be able to transfer more and more responsibility to the Iraqis, and eventually decrease troop levels without losing our capacity to defeat the terrorists. And I assure you: Any decisions about troop levels will be driven by conditions on the ground and by the judgment of our commanders -- not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.

Recently there have been some prominent voices advocating a sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq. Some have suggested the war is not winnable, a few seem almost eager to conclude that the struggle was already lost. But they are wrong. The only way to lose this fight is to quit -- and that is not an option.

- U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Vice President's Remarks at a Rally for the Troops, January 6, 2006

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060106-9.html


We have a dual track strategy for victory. On the one hand, we will work to have a political process that says to all Iraqis, the future belongs to you. And on the other hand, we'll continue to work on the security situation there. The main thrust of our success will be when the Iraqis are able to take the fight to the enemy that wants to stop their democracy, and we're making darn good progress along those lines.

- George W. Bush, President Meets with Current & Former Secretaries of State and Defense, January 5, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060105.html


Our coalition has also put tremendous effort into standing up the Iraqi security forces, and we've come a great distance over the past year. More and more, coalition forces have Iraqis at their side, helping to clear out terrorists, and then staying in the area to maintain the peace. We're helping build an Iraqi force that is sharp and well equipped, and this was vital to the success of last month's elections. There are over 100 Iraqi combat battalions fighting the terrorists, along with our forces today. More than a dozen military bases our coalition used to occupy have been turned back to the Iraqis. Gradually, Iraqi forces are taking control of more and more territory, and as they undertake further missions on their own, confidence is growing within the country and more intelligence tips are coming in from the Iraqi people themselves.

As the Iraqi army gains strength and experience, and as the political process advances, we'll be able to decrease troop levels without losing our capacity to defeat the terrorists. And as President Bush has made very clear, any decisions about troop levels will be driven by conditions on the ground and by the judgment of our commanders -- not by artificial timelines set by politicians here in Washington, D.C.

We will stand firmly with Iraq's leaders as they establish the institutions of a unified and a lasting democracy. On the political track, every benchmark has been met successfully -- starting with the turnover of sovereignty a year and a half ago, national elections last January, the drafting of the constitution last summer, and the ratification of that constitution by voters in October, and, of course, most recently, the election of a new government under that constitution in December. The political leaders of Iraq are steady. They're courageous, and the citizens, police and soldiers of that country have proudly stepped forward as active participants and guardians in a new democracy -- running for office, speaking out, voting and sacrificing for their country. When I met with Prime Minister Jaafari in Baghdad, he pointed the voter turnout figures for the national elections, three of them in 2005 -- around 59 percent in January, some 63 percent in October, and approximately 70 percent turnout in December. Iraqi citizens have done all of this despite threats from terrorists who offer no political agenda for Iraq's future, and wage a campaign of mass slaughter against the Iraqi people themselves, the vast majority of whom are fellow Muslims.

Day after day, month after month, Iraqis have proven their determination to live in freedom, to chart their own destiny, and to defend their country. And they can know that the United States will keep our commitment to them. We will continue the work of reconstruction. Our forces will keep going after the terrorists, and continue training the Iraqi military, so that Iraqis can eventually take the lead in their country's security and our men and women can come home. We will succeed in this mission, and when it is concluded, we will be a safer country here in the United States, as well.

...

Lately our forces in Iraq have been receiving some mixed signals out of Washington, and they might have been wondering whether America has what it takes to stay in the fight. I assured them that the American people do not support a policy of passivity, resignation, or defeatism in the face of terror. If we have learned anything in the last 25 years -- from Beirut, to Somalia, to the USS Cole -- it is that terrorist attacks are not caused by the projection of force; they are invited by the perception of weakness. And this nation made a decision: We will never go back to the false comforts of the world before September 11th, 2001. We will engage these enemies with the goal of victory. And with the American military in the fight, that victory is certain.

- U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President on Iraq and the War on Terror, January 4, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060104-2.html


In Iraq, 2005 was a year of progress toward meeting our goal of victory. If you really think about it, there was three important elections that took place, and in an atmosphere that some predicted wouldn't yield democracy. We had the January elections, we had the constitution elections, we had elections last December when nearly 11 million people defied the terrorists to vote. The turnout in that country was 70 percent. Part of our strategy for defeating the enemy in Iraq is for there to be a viable political process. And when 70 percent of the people show up to vote, that's a good sign. See, people are saying, I want to participate in the democratic process. The Iraqis showed great courage.

Now, we look forward to the process, obviously, moving on. The formation of a unity government is going to be important to the stability of the future of Iraq. Before that happens, obviously you've got to finish counting the votes. And that's going to happen over the next couple of weeks. And then the government -- they're beginning to form the government under their new constitution. It takes a two-third vote of the parliament for certain top officials to assume office. And to form this inclusive government, the Iraqi leaders must compromise and negotiate and build consensus, and this is going to take some time.

What the American people will see during the weeks ahead is a political process unfold; that people will be making decisions not based upon who has got the biggest gun, but who has got the capacity to rally the will of the people. And that's positive. Democracies are an important part of our winning the war on terror. Democracies yield an ideology that is based on an ideology that says, people are free -- free to choose. The ideology of the enemy says, a few people will choose, and if you don't like what we tell you to believe in, we'll kill you, or -- or treat you harshly.

And I want the American people to remember what life was like for the poor people in Afghanistan under the Taliban. The Taliban had no hopeful vision. They're vision was, if you don't agree with us, we'll take you in the public square and whip you. They're vision was, women don't have rights. They're vision was a dark and dim vision, which stands in stark contrast to the vision based upon freedom and democracy.

The second part of our strategy is to -- in Iraq, a strategy for victory, is to train the Iraqis so they can take the fight against the few who would stop the progress of many. And during this election, we were briefed about the security forces during the election. The commanders talked about more than 215,000 Iraqi soldiers and police that secured the country. That was an increase, by the way, of 85,000 since January of 2005. General Casey labeled the performance of the troops as superb.

Before the elections there was a number of joint operations to lay the groundwork for a peaceful election. The Iraqis were in the lead on election day. In other words, they were responsible for the security of the elections. We were in a position to help them, but they were responsible for securing the voting booths. And they did a fine job. The number of attacks during the election were down dramatically. They performed. And that's part of our calibrating whether or not the Iraqi troops are becoming more capable. Numbers are one thing, but the ability to perform is another. And during these elections, the Iraqi troops showed our commanders on the ground and showed the American people that they're becoming more and more capable of performing their duty to provide security to the Iraqi people.

Now, you've got to understand that just because the elections went forward that doesn't mean these Saddamists, Zarqawi types are going to lay down their arms. They're not. There will still be violence. And there will still be some who believe that they can affect the political outcome of Iraq through violent means. We understand that. And we're going to stay on the offense against these - "we" being coalition forces, as well as the Iraqi forces. But the recent elections have served as a real defeat for the rejectionists, and the Saddamists and al Qaeda types. Sunni Arabs who had boycotted the process, joined the process. And as they did so, those who want to stop the progress of freedom are becoming more and more marginalized inside of Iraq.

So in 2006, the mission is to continue to hand over more and more territory and more and more responsibility to Iraqi forces. A year ago there was only a handful of Iraqi army and police battalions ready for combat, ready to take the lead; today, there are more than 125 Iraqi combat battalions fighting the enemy, and 50 of those are in the lead. That's progress. And it's important progress, and it's an important part of our strategy to win in Iraq. And as these forces become more battle-hardened and take the lead, we're going to see continued confidence in the Iraqi people of the Iraqis being able to defend themselves, and that's important. And as we see more of these Iraqi forces in the lead, we'll be able to continue with our desire, our stated strategy that says as Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down.

The commanders have recently determined that we can reduce our combat forces in Iraq from 17 to 15 brigades. And the reason they were able to do so is because the Iraqis are more capable. The adjustment is underway. This adjustment will result in a net decrease of several thousand troops below the pre-election baseline of 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The decrease comes in addition to a reduction of about 20,000 troops who were in Iraq to assist with security during the December elections.

Later this year, if Iraqis continue to make progress on the security and political sides that we expect, we can discuss further possible adjustments with the leaders of a new government in Iraq. But my decisions will be based upon conditions on the ground and the recommendation of our commanders, not based by false political timetables in Washington, D.C. I'm not going to let politics get in the way of doing the right thing in Iraq, and the American people have got to understand that.

We've also got the opportunity to change our composition of our forces inside Iraq. In 2006, we expect Iraqis will take more and more control of the battle space, and as they do so, we will need fewer U.S. troops to conduct combat operations around that country. More of our forces will be dedicated to training and supporting the Iraqi units. In the coming year, we will continue to focus on helping Iraqis improve their logistics and intelligence capabilities so more Iraqi units can take the fight and can sustain themselves in the fight.

We're also going to spend a lot of time on police training. An important part of our strategy is not only to have a competent Iraqi army, but police forces that are capable of earning the confidence of the Iraqi citizens. To restore security, Iraq has got to have capable police forces. And the recent reports of abuses by some of the Iraqi police units are troubling, and that conduct is unacceptable. Our commanders understand that, the Secretary understands that, and I know that.

To stop such abuses and increase the professionalism of the Iraqi police, General Dempsey, who is in charge of training, and others are working with the Iraqis to continue making adjustments in the way the forces are trained. First, we're going to work with the Iraqi government to increase the training Iraqi police recruits receive in human rights and the rule of law, so they understand the role of the police in a democratic society.

Second, we're training Iraqi police with a program that has been effective with the Iraqi army. In other words, when we find something that works, we'll do it. And if we find something that's not working, we change -- and that is to embed coalition transition teams inside Iraqi special police units. Embedding our folks inside Iraqi army units has worked. One reason why these Iraqi units are better able to take the lead is because they've worked side-by-side with American specialists and experts, some of our best troops. So we're going to embed these type of soldiers with the Iraqi police forces, as well.

These transition teams will be made up of our officers, as well as noncommissioned officers. The coalition teams will go in the field with the police; they'll provide real-time advice and important assistance on patrol and during operations. And between operations they're going to train the Iraqi officers; they're going to help them become increasingly capable and professional so they can serve and protect all the Iraqi people without discrimination.

As we train not only the soldiers, but the police, our special units will continue hunting down al Qaeda and their affiliates. See, al Qaeda thinks they can use Iraq as a safe haven from which to launch attacks. That's their stated objective. I'm not making this up. Nobody in -- this is what Zawahiri and Zarqawi discussed. They said, let's drive America out of Iraq so we can use Iraq as a safe haven. We're going to train Iraqis, we'll train their army and train their police, and at the same time, we've got some of the finest soldiers ever on the hunt to bring Zarqawi and his buddies to justice.

...

During the past year we lost some really good folks who wore the uniform of the United States of America. We pray for their loved ones. We pray for the comfort of those who had a sorrowful holiday season because a seat at the table was empty. And we vow to those that we will complete our mission: We will lay that foundation of peace for generations to come; that we'll do our duty to protect this country by not only bringing justice to an enemy that wants to do us harm, but by spreading freedom and democracy.

- George W. Bush, President Discusses War on Terror Following Pentagon Briefing, January 4, 2006

source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060104.html


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: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. 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: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. 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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