Iraq Exit Strategy Watch Logo



Archive: 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | early 2006 | late 2006 | early 2007

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 09, 2022


Graphic on coalition troops in Iraq after the White House announced Tuesday that the US could increase the number of its troops stationed there.(AFP/File)

And I'm going to take my time to make sure that the policy, when it comes out, the American people will see that we are -- have got a new way forward to achieve an important objective, which is a country that can govern, sustain and defend itself.

And one thing that will be clear is that I want the American people to know that -- and the Iraqi people to know that -- we expect the Iraqi people to continue making hard choices and doing hard work necessary to succeed, and our job is to help them do so.


I think one of the -- obviously, the real problem we face is the sectarian violence that needs to be dealt with. So part of my policy review is how do we deal with that in a way that then enables the Iraqi people to live in a more secure society so that the government can prove its worth to the people -- saying, we can help you. And one of the main functions of government is to provide security for its people. Our job is to help the Iraqis provide that security. And I'll come forward with a plan that will enable us to achieve that objective.

There's other threats, by the way. It's a multiple-front war, if you really think about it. You got Shia discord in the south; you've got Sunni attacks, much of that -- many of them are caused by al-Qaeda. A lot of them, former Baathists and regimists who are angry that Saddam is no longer in power, and they are a source of conflict in al-Anbar province. And we've got a very robust effort -- I said the other day something that, I guess, people didn't pay that much attention to -- but for October and November and the first week of December, our actions on the ground have -- as a result of action on the ground, we killed or captured nearly 5,900 people. My point in making that point is our troops and coalition troops are on the offense in a lot of areas.

And then the third area of conflict, the one that gets a lot of attention, as it should, is the sectarian violence taking place in Baghdad. And I fully understand that we've got to help the Iraqis deal with that. So my thinking is -- and a lot of our strategy sessions revolve around how best to deal with this problem, and how best to help the Iraqis deal with it. And I've got some more work to do, and I'll come forth at the appropriate time and explain the way forward to the country.


I think what the people want is -- they want a couple of things. They want to see Democrats and Republicans work together to achieve a common objective, and they want us to win in Iraq. A lot of people understand that if we leave Iraq, there will be dire consequences -- in other words, if we leave before the job is done. There are some, a fair number of people, who say, "Get out now." So I view the election results as people are not satisfied with the progress being made in Iraq and expect to see a different strategy to achieve an important objective.


... I want to achieve the objective. I think the American people -- I know the American people are very worried about an external threat and that they recognize that failure in Iraq would embolden that external threat, and they expect this administration to listen with people, to work with Democrats, to work with the military, to work with the Iraqis to put a plan in place that achieves the objective. There's not a lot of people saying, "Get out now." Most Americans are saying, "We want to achieve the objective."


... I've got four constituencies I speak to on a regular basis; one is the American people, who are justifiably frustrated at the progress in Iraq. And they expect the commander in chief and the people in Washington to support our troops. Supporting our troops not only means good equipment, good [pay], good housing -- it also means a plan that helps achieve the objective.

The second constituency is the enemy. ... The enemy wants to know whether or not the United States has the will to stay engaged in this ideological struggle. They don't believe we do. That's what they say. And I believe that's what they believe.

The third group of people I speak to are the Iraqis. They wonder whether the United States has got the will to help them achieve their objectives. That's what they wonder. The leaders I have talked to wonder whether or not -- what the elections mean, or what the Baker-Hamilton commission means, or what changing [former defense] secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld means -- that's what they wonder. But in the back of their mind, they're saying, "Are they going to leave us again?" And that's an important question for them to have answered, because in order to make difficult choices and to take risk for peace, they're going to have to be assured that they'll get support. This is a group of people that have had their hopes dashed in the past.

And the fourth group is the military. Our troops wonder whether or not our country supports them, and they do. They wonder whether or not the mission and the sacrifice and the toil that they're making is worth it. And they need to know from the commander in chief: Not only is it worth it, but I strongly support them and believe that their work will lead to victory. That's what I believe.


I believe [the war is] justifiable and necessary. Obviously, the war has not -- the results on the ground haven't happened as quickly as I hoped, and part of this review process is to develop new strategies and tactics so that we can expedite success. Look, I of all people would like to see the troops come home. But I don't want them to come home without achieving our objective, because I understand what happens if there's failure. And I'm going to keep repeating this over and over again, that I believe we're in an ideological struggle that is -- that our country will be dealing with for a long time.


- George W. Bush,  25 Minutes in the Oval Office: President Bush on Iraq, Elections and Immigration, December 20, 2006

This 25-minute interview was conducted yesterday [December 19, 2006] in the Oval Office by Washington Post staff writers Peter Baker, Michael A. Fletcher and Michael Abramowitz.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Sunday British troops would stay in Iraq "until the job is done" and pledged to support the country's weak government as it battles sectarian violence and a raging Sunni Arab insurgency.


Blair said he and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had discussed the need for national reconciliation and building up Iraq's security forces to fight soaring Shi'ite-Sunni sectarian violence that has pushed the country close to all-out civil war.

"We stand ready to support you in every way that we can so that in time the Iraq government and the Iraqi people can take full responsibility for their affairs," Blair, who is touring the Middle East, told a news conference.

The visit by Blair, Washington's closest ally, comes as U.S. President George W. Bush is rethinking his Iraq strategy following the defeat of his Republicans in mid-term elections and in the face of mounting U.S. military casualties.

Blair defended London's plans for a gradual withdrawal of its 7,200 troops in the south, mostly in and around oil-rich Basra, as Iraq's fledgling security forces take over.

"This isn't a change of our policy," he said. "Don't be under any doubt at all. British troops will remain until the job is done."

Britain has transferred authority to Iraqis in two of the four southern provinces it took responsibility for after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. It has said it is confident it can hand over Basra to the Iraqis early next year and hopes to have brought thousands of troops home by the end of 2007.


- Blair says UK-Iraq troops to stay, By Ross Colvin and Katherine Baldwin, Reuters, December 17, 2006


©2006 Reuters, Johnston Press Digital Publishing

I've just concluded a very productive meeting with the Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Pete Pace, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Vice President. I thank these men who wear our uniform for a very candid and fruitful discussion about the -- about how to secure this country, and how to win a war that we now find ourselves in.

We spent a lot of time talking about a new way forward in Iraq, to help the Iraqi government confront and defeat the enemies of a free Iraq. We all agree it's in our nation's interest that we help this government succeed. We recognize there are enemies that would like to topple this young democracy so they could have safe haven from which to plot and plan attacks against moderate nations in the Middle East, as well as attacks against the United States. It's in our interest that we help this government succeed.

There has been a lot of violence in Iraq. And the violence has been horrific. Scores of innocent men, women, and children are being brutally killed by ruthless murderers. Our troops are engaged in offensive operations, and we mourn the loss of life. We are saddened by the loss of every single life amongst our servicemen and women. Our folks are very active in al Anbar and in Baghdad, which is where the enemy is concentrated.

Our commanders report that the enemy has also suffered. Offensive operations by Iraqi and coalition forces against terrorists and insurgents and death squad leaders have yielded positive results. In the months of October, November, and the first week of December, we have killed or captured nearly 5,900 of the enemy.

While the enemy is far from being defeated, there should be no doubt in anybody's mind that every day and night, the Iraqi government and our brave men and women of the Armed Forces are taking the fight to the enemy; that in spite of the fact that I am conducting a strategic review of the best way forward in Iraq, there are a lot of operations taking place, day and night.

Yesterday, the Secretary and the Vice President and General Pace and I were on the SVTS with General Casey, and he's talking about the hard work our troops and Iraqi troops are doing to defeat these enemies.

I do want to say something to those who wear our uniform. The men and women in uniform are always on my mind. I am proud of them. I appreciate their sacrifices. And I want them to know that I am focused on developing a strategy that will help them achieve their mission. Oh, I know there's a lot of debate here at home, and our troops pay attention to that debate. They hear that I am meeting with the Pentagon or the State Department or outside officials, that my National Security team and I are working closely with Iraqi leaders, and they wonder what that means. Well, I'll tell you what it means. It means I am listening to a lot of advice to develop a strategy to help you succeed.

There's a lot of consultations taking place, and as I announced yesterday, I will be delivering my -- my plans, after a long deliberation, after steady deliberation. I'm not going to be rushed into making a difficult decision, a necessary decision, to say to our troops, we're going to give you the tools necessary to succeed and a strategy to help you succeed. I also want the new Secretary of Defense to have time to evaluate the situation, so he can provide serious and deliberate advice to me.

I do want our troops to understand this, though: that this government and this group of military leaders are committed to a strategic goal of a free Iraq that is democratic, that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself, and be a strong ally in this war against radicals and extremists who would do us harm; secondly, that our troops deserve the solid commitment of the Commander-in-Chief and our political leaders and the American people.

You have my unshakable commitment in this important fight to help secure the peace for the long-term. I pledge to work with the new Congress to forge greater bipartisan consensus to help you achieve your mission. I will continue to speak about your bravery and your commitment and the sacrifices of your families to the American people. We're not going to give up. The stakes are too high and the consequences too grave to turn Iraq over to extremists who want to do the American people and the Iraqi people harm.


I've heard some ideas that would lead to defeat, and I reject those ideas -- ideas such as leaving before the job is done; ideas such as not helping this government take the necessary and hard steps to be able to do its job.

I've heard interesting ideas. I won't share them with you because I want to make sure I continue to collect those ideas and put them together in a strategy that our military and the commanders and our national security team understands will lead to an Iraq that can govern and sustain and defend itself.


But one thing people got to understand is we'll be headed toward achieving our objectives. And I repeat, if we lose our nerve, if we're not steadfast in our determination to help the Iraqi government succeed, we will be handing Iraq over to an enemy that would do us harm, the consequences of which -- of leaving Iraq before the job is done, for example, would be grave for the American citizens.

As we learned on September the 11th, the enemy has got the capacity to strike us. And there's no doubt in my mind a failure in Iraq would make it more likely the enemy would strike us. It would certainly make it more likely that moderate people around the Middle East would wonder about the United States' will. Moderate people -- moderate governments in the Middle East would be making irrational decisions about their future. It would be a disaster for governments that have got energy resources to be in the hands of these extremists. They would use energy to extract blackmail from the United States. And when you couple all that with a regime that is -- doesn't like the United States having a nuclear weapon, you can imagine a world of turmoil. And we're not going to let it happen.


I think that our military cannot do this job alone. Our military needs a political strategy that is effective. And that includes things such an oil law passed by the Iraqis that basically says to the people, all of you, regardless of where you live or your religion, get to share in the bounty of our nation. It requires a reconciliation effort, including a rational de-Baathification law.


And so there needs to be a political track. And we're working very hard with the Maliki government to achieve that political track. That's what I've been doing the last couple of days. As a matter of fact, today on the telephone I spoke to the two Kurdish leaders. These men have been outspoken about the desire to have a moderate governing coalition, which we support. I met with the major Sunni leader yesterday, all talking about how we hope that there is political reconciliation and a commitment to a political process that says to the Iraqi people, you count; you matter for the future of our country.

There needs to be an economic component. As you know, part of our successful strategies in parts of Iraq have been based upon "clear, hold and build." Well, "build" means getting projects up and running in key parts of the country, so that people see the benefits of either working with coalition forces, and/or the benefits of supporting a government. And so this is much more than a military operation.

And finally, there's the foreign policy piece that's necessary. And we spend a lot of time in our government talking to people like Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or Jordan, or Turkey, and sending messages, clear messages, to countries like Syria and Iran. And I believe, for example, the Saudis are committed to a government that will bring peace and stability, and that's a unity government. It's in their interest they do so. And we're working hard with them to figure out a strategy to help the Maliki government succeed.

I'm pleased when Iraqi leaders go to Saudi Arabia and talk to my friend, the King of Saudi Arabia, and talk about how they can work together to achieve stability. It's in Saudi's interest, it's in Jordan's interest, it's in the Gulf Coast countries' interest that there be a stable Iran [sic], an Iran [sic] that is capable of rejecting Iranian influence -- I mean, Iraq that is capable of rejecting Iranian influence. It's in our interests that we succeed in Iraq so that we can continue to send a clear message to those in Iran that are desirous of a free society that freedom is possible in your neighborhood.

And so the stakes are high in this fight. Nobody knows that better than the gentlemen standing behind me. They clearly understand the stakes that are confronted -- that confront this nation. And I am proud to have listened to their points of view. And I'm proud to be working with them, as they help lead the greatest military ever assembled -- a military, by the way, in which we've got brave volunteers, people who understand the stakes of this fight, saying, I want to be in, I want to serve my country.

It's a remarkable period in American history right now. And as I deliberate the way forward, I keep in mind that we've got brave souls that need -- to need to know that we're in this fight with a strategy to help them achieve the objectives that we've got.


- George W. Bush, President Bush Meets with Senior U.S. Defense Officials on Iraq, December 13, 2006


This week, I held important meetings at the White House about the situation in Iraq.

On Monday, I met in the Oval Office with one of Iraq's most influential Shia leaders, His Eminence Abdul Aziz al Hakim. We discussed the desire of the Iraqi people to see their unity government succeed, and how the United States can help them achieve that goal.

On Thursday, I had breakfast with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. We discussed the sectarian violence in Iraq and the need to confront extremists inside Iraq and throughout the region. The Prime Minister explains it this way: "The violence is not ... an accident or a result of faulty planning. It is a deliberate strategy. It is the direct result of outside extremists teaming up with internal extremists -- al Qaeda with [the] Sunni insurgents, [and Iran with] Shia militia -- to foment hatred and thus throttle at birth the possibility of non-sectarian democracy."

The Prime Minister and I also discussed the report I received this week from the Iraq Study Group, chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. Their report provides a straightforward picture of the grave situation we face in Iraq. The Iraq Study Group's report also explicitly endorses the strategic goal we've set in Iraq: an Iraq that can "govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself."

The report went on to say, "In our view, this definition entails an Iraq with a broadly representative government that maintains its territorial integrity, is at peace with its neighbors, denies terrorism a sanctuary, and doesn't brutalize its own people. Given the current situation in Iraq, achieving this goal will require much time and will depend primarily on the actions of the Iraqi people."

I agree with this assessment. I was also encouraged that the Iraq Study Group was clear about the consequences of a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. The group declared that such a withdrawal would "almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence" and lead to "a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization, and a threat to the global economy." The report went on to say, "If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return."

The Iraq Study Group understands the urgency of getting it right in Iraq. The group also understands that while the work ahead will not be easy, success in Iraq is important, and success in Iraq is possible. The group proposed a number of thoughtful recommendations on a way forward for our country in Iraq. My administration is reviewing the report, and we will seriously consider every recommendation. At the same time, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the National Security Council are finishing work on their own reviews of our strategy in Iraq. I look forward to receiving their recommendations. I want to hear all advice as I make the decisions to chart a new course in Iraq.

I thank the members of the Iraq Study Group for their hard work and for the example of bipartisanship that they have set. The group showed that Americans of different political parties can agree on a common goal in Iraq and come together on ways to achieve it. Now it is the responsibility of all of us in Washington -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- to come together and find greater consensus on the best way forward.

As part of this effort, I met this week with House and Senate leaders from both parties, as well as senior members of the Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Intelligence Committees. We had productive discussions about our shared duty to forge a bipartisan approach to succeed in Iraq. The future of a vital region of the world and the security of the American people depend on victory in Iraq. I'm confident that we can move beyond our political differences and come together to achieve that victory. I will do my part.


- George W. Bush, Radio Address, December 9, 2006


We agree that victory in Iraq is important; it's important for the Iraqi people, it's important for the security of the United States and Great Britain, and it's important for the civilized world. We agree that an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself as an ally on the war on terror is a noble goal. The Prime Minister and I seek a wide range of opinions about how to go forward in Iraq, and I appreciate your opinions and your advice.

The increase in sectarian attacks we're seeing in and around Baghdad are unsettling. It has led to much debate in both our countries about the nature of the war that is taking place in Iraq. And it is true that Sunni and Shia extremists are targeting each other's innocent civilians and engaging in brutal reprisals. It's also true that forces beyond Iraq's borders contribute to this violence. And the Prime Minister put it this way, he said, "The violence is not an accident or a result of faulty planning. It is a deliberate strategy. It is the direct result of outside extremists teaming up with internal extremists -- al Qaeda with the Sunni insurgents, and Iran with the Shia militia -- to foment hatred and to throttle, at birth, the possibility of a non-sectarian democracy." You were right, and I appreciate your comments.

The primary victims of the sectarian violence are the moderate majority of Iraqis -- Sunni and Shia alike -- who want a future of peace. The primary beneficiaries are Sunni and Shia extremists, inside and outside of Iraq, who want chaos in that country so they can take control and further their ambitions to dominate the region.

These Sunni and Shia extremists have important differences, yet they agree on one thing: the rise of free and democratic societies in the Middle East where people can practice their faith, choose their leaders, and live together in peace would be a decisive blow to their cause.

And so they're supporting extremists across the region who are working to undermine young democracies. Just think about the Middle East. In Iraq, they support terrorists and death squads who are fomenting sectarian violence in an effort to bring down the elected government of Prime Minister Maliki. In Lebanon, they're supporting Hezbollah, which recently declared its intention to force the collapse of Prime Minister Siniora's democratically-elected parliament and government. In Afghanistan, they're supporting remnants of the Taliban that are seeking to destabilize President Karzai's government and regain power. In the Palestinian Territories, they are working to stop moderate leaders like President Abbas from making progress toward the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

In each of these places, radicals and extremists are using terror to stop the spread of freedom. And they do so because they want to spread their ideologies -- their ideologies of hate -- and impose their rule on this vital part of the world. And should they succeed, history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity and demand to know, what happened? How come free nations did not act to preserve the peace?

Prime Minister Blair and I understand that we have a responsibility to lead and to support moderates and reformers who work for change across the broader Middle East. We also recognize that meeting this responsibility requires action. We will take concerted efforts to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. Prime Minister Blair informed me that he will be heading to the Middle East soon to talk to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. And I support that mission. I support the mission because it's important for us to advance the cause of two states living side by side in peace, and helping both parties eliminate the obstacles that prevent an agreement from being reached. And your strong leadership on this issue matters a lot.

We'll support the democratic government of Prime Minister Maliki as he makes difficult decisions and confronts the forces of terror and extremism that are working hard to tear his country apart.

Britain and America are old allies, and the Prime Minister and I are strong friends. But Britain and America aren't standing together in this war because of friendship. We're standing together because our two nations face an unprecedented threat to civilization. We're standing together to prevent terrorists and extremists from dominating the Middle East. We stand together to prevent extremists from regaining the safe haven they lost in Afghanistan, a safe haven from which they launched attacks that killed thousands of our citizens.

We stand together because we understand the only way to secure a lasting peace for our children and grandchildren is to defeat the extremist ideologies and help the ideology of hope, democracy, prevail. We know the only way to secure peace for ourselves is to help millions of moms and dads across the Middle East build what our citizens already have: societies based on liberty that will allow their children to grow up in peace and opportunity.

It's a tough time. And it's a difficult moment for America and Great Britain. And the task before us is daunting. Yet our nations have stood before in difficult moments. Sixty-five years ago this day, America was jolted out of our isolationism and plunged into a global war that Britain had been fighting for two years. In that war, our nation stood firm. And there were difficult moments during that war, yet the leaders of our two nations never lost faith in the capacity to prevail.

We will stand firm again in this first war of the 21st century. We will defeat the extremists and the radicals. We will help a young democracy prevail in Iraq. And in so doing, we will secure freedom and peace for millions, including our own citizens.


The thing I liked about the Baker-Hamilton report is it discussed the way forward in Iraq. And I believe we need a new approach. And that's why I've tasked the Pentagon to analyze the way forward. That's why Prime Minister Blair is here to talk about the way forward, so we can achieve the objective, which is an Iraq which can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror.


I understand how tough it is. And I've been telling the American people how tough it is. And they know how tough it is. And the fundamental question is, do we have a plan to achieve our objective. Are we willing to change as the enemy has changed? And what the Baker-Hamilton study has done is it shows good ideas as to how to go forward. What our Pentagon is doing is figuring out ways to go forward, all aiming to achieve our objective.

Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir. I talk to families who die. I understand there's sectarian violence. I also understand that we're hunting down al Qaeda on a regular basis and we're bringing them to justice. I understand how hard our troops are working. I know how brave the men and women who wear the uniform are, and therefore, they'll have the full support of this government. I understand what long deployments mean to wives and husbands, and mothers and fathers, particularly as we come into a holiday season. I understand. And I have made it abundantly clear how tough it is.

I also believe we're going to succeed. I believe we'll prevail. Not only do I know how important it is to prevail, I believe we will prevail. I understand how hard it is to prevail. But I also want the American people to understand that if we were to fail -- and one way to assure failure is just to quit, is not to adjust, and say it's just not worth it -- if we were to fail, that failed policy will come to hurt generations of Americans in the future.

And as I said in my opening statement, I believe we're in an ideological struggle between forces that are reasonable and want to live in peace, and radicals and extremists. And when you throw into the mix radical Shia and radical Sunni trying to gain power and topple moderate governments, with energy which they could use to blackmail Great Britain or America, or anybody else who doesn't kowtow to them, and a nuclear weapon in the hands of a government that is -- would be using that nuclear weapon to blackmail to achieve political objectives -- historians will look back and say, how come Bush and Blair couldn't see the threat? That's what they'll be asking. And I want to tell you, I see the threat and I believe it is up to our governments to help lead the forces of moderation to prevail. It's in our interests.

And one of the things that has changed for American foreign policy is a threat overseas can now come home to hurt us, and September the 11th should be a wake-up call for the American people to understand what happens if there is violence and safe havens in a part of the world. And what happens is people can die here at home.

So, no, I appreciate your question. As you can tell, I feel strongly about making sure you understand that I understand it's tough. But I want you to know, sir, that I believe we'll prevail. I know we have to adjust to prevail, but I wouldn't have our troops in harm's way if I didn't believe that, one, it was important, and, two, we'll succeed.


One of the things the report did mention, and I think you've said it in your comment, if conditions so allow. And we want our combat troops out as quick as possible. We want the Iraqis taking the fight. But it's very important to be -- as we design programs, to be flexible and realistic. And as the report said -- I don't -- got the exact words, but it was along the lines of depending upon conditions, I believe is what the qualifier was. And I thought that made a lot of sense. I've always said we'd like our troops out as fast as possible. I think that's an important goal.

On the other hand, our commanders will be making recommendations based upon whether or not we're achieving our stated objective. And the objective, I repeat, is a government which can sustain, govern, and defend itself -- free government of Iraq that can do that -- and will be an ally in this movement -- against this movement that is threatening peace and stability. And it's real.

I like to remind people it's akin to the Cold War in many ways. There's an ideological clash going on. And the question is, will we have the resolve and the confidence in liberty to prevail? That's really the fundamental question facing -- it's not going to face this government or this government, because we made up our mind. We've made that part clear. But it will face future governments. There will be future opportunities for people to say, well, it's not worth it, let's just retreat. I would strongly advise a government not to accept that position because of the dangers inherent with isolationism and retreat.


I do know that we have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed. I do understand that progress is not as rapid as I had hoped. And therefore, it makes sense to analyze the situation and to devise a set of tactics and strategies to achieve the objective that I have stated.

And so if the present situation needs to be changed, it follows that we'll change it if we want to succeed. What's really interesting is the battle has changed in Iraq from the rejectionists and former Baathists and definitely foreign fighters who have entered the country that were trying to destabilize the new government to one that Mr. Zarqawi stated clearly -- he said, look, let's kill Shia in order to create enough chaos and confusion and doubt of the government, and set off a sectarian battle. And he succeeded in that extent. He didn't succeed at avoiding us, but he did succeed at starting off sectarian strife. And now the fundamental question is, what strategy is necessary to deal with this type of violence?

We'll continue after al Qaeda. Al Qaeda will not have safe haven in Iraq. And that's important for the American people to know. We've got special operators, we've got better intelligence. And al Qaeda is effective at these spectacular bombings, and we'll chase them down, and we are, along with the Iraqis. The strategy now is how to make sure that we've got the security situation in place such that the Iraqi government is capable of dealing with the sectarian violence, as well as the political and economic strategies, as well.

So, yes, I think you'll see something differently, because it's a practical answer to a situation on the ground that's not the way we like it. You wanted frankness -- I thought we would succeed quicker than we did, and I am disappointed by the pace of success.


- George W. Bush, President Bush Meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, December 7, 2006


And so the question is, how do we make sure that it does, indeed, succeed? And in respect of Iraq, I, like you, welcome the Baker-Hamilton study group. It offers a strong way forward. I think it is important now we concentrate on the elements that are necessary to make sure that we succeed, because the consequences of failure are severe. And I believe this is a mission we have to succeed in and we can succeed in.

And I think there are three elements that we can take forward. The first is to make sure that we are supporting the Maliki government in making sure that that government's non-sectarian nature is reflected in the policies of that government and the way that it conducts itself. I think in respect of governance and security and capability -- particularly economic capability -- there is much that we are doing, but can do even more in order to make sure that they are supported in the vital work that they do, and in the work of reconciliation, in bringing the different parts of Iraq together in order to give effect to the will of the Iraqi people, expressed in their democratic election.

I think, secondly, it's important that all of us who are engaged in this, but particularly those in the region, live up to their responsibilities in supporting the Maliki government, in ensuring that Iraq is able to proceed in a democratic and non-sectarian way.


- British Prime Minister Tony Blair,  President Bush Meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, December 7, 2006


December 3, 2006
Rumsfeld’s Memo of Options for Iraq War
Following is the text of a classified Nov. 6 memorandum that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent to the White House suggesting new options in Iraq. The memorandum was sent one day before the midterm Congressional elections and two days before Mr. Rumsfeld resigned.

Nov. 6, 2006

SUBJECT: Iraq — Illustrative New Courses of Action

The situation in Iraq has been evolving, and U.S. forces have adjusted, over time, from major combat operations to counterterrorism, to counterinsurgency, to dealing with death squads and sectarian violence. In my view it is time for a major adjustment. Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough. Following is a range of options:


Above the Line: (Many of these options could and, in a number of cases, should be done in combination with others)

¶Publicly announce a set of benchmarks agreed to by the Iraqi Government and the U.S. — political, economic and security goals — to chart a path ahead for the Iraqi government and Iraqi people (to get them moving) and for the U.S. public (to reassure them that progress can and is being made).

¶Significantly increase U.S. trainers and embeds, and transfer more U.S. equipment to Iraqi Security forces (ISF), to further accelerate their capabilities by refocusing the assignment of some significant portion of the U.S. troops currently in Iraq.

¶Initiate a reverse embeds program, like the Korean Katusas, by putting one or more Iraqi soldiers with every U.S. and possibly Coalition squad, to improve our units’ language capabilities and cultural awareness and to give the Iraqis experience and training with professional U.S. troops.

¶Aggressively beef up the Iraqi MOD and MOI, and other Iraqi ministries critical to the success of the ISF — the Iraqi Ministries of Finance, Planning, Health, Criminal Justice, Prisons, etc. — by reaching out to U.S. military retirees and Reserve/National Guard volunteers (i.e., give up on trying to get other USG Departments to do it.)

¶Conduct an accelerated draw-down of U.S. bases. We have already reduced from 110 to 55 bases. Plan to get down to 10 to 15 bases by April 2007, and to 5 bases by July 2007.

¶Retain high-end SOF capability and necessary support structure to target Al Qaeda, death squads, and Iranians in Iraq, while drawing down all other Coalition forces, except those necessary to provide certain key enablers for the ISF.

¶Initiate an approach where U.S. forces provide security only for those provinces or cities that openly request U.S. help and that actively cooperate, with the stipulation being that unless they cooperate fully, U.S. forces would leave their province.

¶Stop rewarding bad behavior, as was done in Fallujah when they pushed in reconstruction funds, and start rewarding good behavior. Put our reconstruction efforts in those parts of Iraq that are behaving, and invest and create havens of opportunity to reward them for their good behavior. As the old saying goes, “If you want more of something, reward it; if you want less of something, penalize it.” No more reconstruction assistance in areas where there is violence.

¶Position substantial U.S. forces near the Iranian and Syrian borders to reduce infiltration and, importantly, reduce Iranian influence on the Iraqi Government.

¶Withdraw U.S. forces from vulnerable positions — cities, patrolling, etc. — and move U.S. forces to a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) status, operating from within Iraq and Kuwait, to be available when Iraqi security forces need assistance.

¶Begin modest withdrawals of U.S. and Coalition forces (start “taking our hand off the bicycle seat”), so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.

¶Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period.

¶Initiate a massive program for unemployed youth. It would have to be run by U.S. forces, since no other organization could do it.

¶Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis. This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not “lose.”

¶Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist.

Below the Line (less attractive options):

¶Continue on the current path.

¶Move a large fraction of all U.S. Forces into Baghdad to attempt to control it.

¶Increase Brigade Combat Teams and U.S. forces in Iraq substantially.

¶Set a firm withdrawal date to leave. Declare that with Saddam gone and Iraq a sovereign nation, the Iraqi people can govern themselves. Tell Iran and Syria to stay out.

¶Assist in accelerating an aggressive federalism plan, moving towards three separate states — Sunni, Shia, and Kurd.

¶Try a Dayton-like process.


- New York Times Article, "Rumsfeld’s Memo of Options for Iraq War", December 3, 2006


Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

...I returned home this week from a visit to the Middle East. On my trip, I met with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq to discuss how we can improve the situation on the ground in his country and help the Iraqis build a lasting democracy.

My meeting with Prime Minister Maliki was our third since he took office six months ago. With each meeting, I'm coming to know him better, and I'm becoming more impressed by his desire to make the difficult choices that will put his country on a better path. During our meeting, I told the Prime Minister that America is ready to make changes to better support the unity government of Iraq, and that several key principles will guide our efforts.

First, the success of Prime Minister Maliki's government is critical to success in Iraq. His unity government was chosen through free elections in which nearly 12 million Iraqis cast their ballots in support of democracy. Our goal in Iraq is to strengthen his democratic government and help Iraq's leaders build a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself -- and is an ally in the war on terror.

Second, the success of the Iraqi government depends on the success of the Iraqi security forces. The training of Iraqi security forces has been steady, yet we both agreed that we need to do more, and we need to do it faster. The Prime Minister wants to show the people who elected him that he's willing to make the hard decisions necessary to provide security.

To do that, he needs larger and more capable Iraqi forces under his control, and he needs them quickly. By helping Iraq's elected leaders get the Iraqi forces they need, we will help Iraq's democratic government become more effective in fighting the terrorists and other violent extremists, and in providing security and stability, particularly in Baghdad.

Third, success in Iraq requires strong institutions that will stand the test of time and hardship. Our goal in Iraq is to help Prime Minister Maliki build a country that is united, where the rule of law prevails and the rights of minorities are respected. The Prime Minister made clear that splitting his country into parts is not what the Iraqi people want and that any partition of Iraq would lead to an increase in sectarian violence.

Security in Iraq requires sustained action by the Iraqi security forces, yet in the long term, security in Iraq hinges on reconciliation among Iraq's different ethnic and religious communities. And the Prime Minister has committed his government to achieving that goal.

The Prime Minister and I also discussed the review of America's strategy in Iraq that is now nearing completion. As part of this review, I've asked our military leaders in the Pentagon and those on the ground in Iraq to provide their recommendations on the best way forward.

A bipartisan panel, led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, is also conducting a review. And I look forward to receiving their report next week. I want to hear all advice before I make any decisions about adjustments to our strategy in Iraq.

I recognize that the recent violence in Iraq has been unsettling. Many people in our country are wondering about the way forward. The work ahead will not be easy, yet by helping Prime Minister Maliki strengthen Iraq's democratic institutions and promote national reconciliation, our military leaders and diplomats can help put Iraq on a solid path to liberty and democracy. The decisions we make in Iraq will be felt across the broader Middle East.

Failure in Iraq would embolden the extremists who hate America and want nothing more than to see our demise. It would strengthen the hand of those who are seeking to undermine young democracies across the region and give the extremists an open field to overthrow moderate governments, take control of countries, impose their rule on millions, and threaten the American people. Our Nation must not allow this to happen.

Success in Iraq will require leaders in Washington -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- to come together and find greater consensus on the best path forward. So I will work with leaders in both parties to achieve this goal. Together we can help Iraqis build a free and democratic nation in the heart of the Middle East, strengthen moderates and reformers across the region who are working for peace, and leave our children and grandchildren a more secure and hopeful world.


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


NASSIRIYA, Iraq, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Italy pulled its last remaining troops out of Iraq on Friday, lowering the tricolour flag at its base in the south of a country where 32 of its soldiers have died since the contingent arrived in June 2003.

Defence Minister Arturo Parisi read out the names of each of the Italian fallen, including secret serviceman Nicola Calipari who was shot dead by U.S. soldiers in March 2005 as he escorted a freed hostage to Baghdad airport.

"Your sacrifice has not been in vain," Parisi said of the military dead. "We will always remember you."

Under former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, a close ally of U.S. President George W. Bush, Italy deployed the fourth largest contingent in the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq, around 3,000 soldiers, based in the south of the country.

But the mission was widely unpopular in Italy and opposition leader Romano Prodi said if elected he would pull the troops out by the end of the year. Prodi won a close-run election in April.

Italy, which had only 44 soldiers remaining in Nassiriya on Friday, hands control of the area to Australian troops.

"We have rendered Dhi Qar province more stable and secure," General Carmine De Pascale said. "The authorities are holding and socio-economic conditions have improved visibly."

In November 2003, 17 Italian military and two Italian civilians were killed by a suicide attack using a fuel tanker at their base, an incident that turned public opinion in Italy even more against the country's involvement in the war.


- Italy pulls last troops out of Iraq, Reuters, By Antonella Cinelli, December 1, 2006


Copyright 2006 Reuters

PRESIDENT BUSH: I've told the Prime Minister that our goal in Iraq is to strengthen his government and to support his efforts to build a free Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself, and is an ally in the war against the terrorists.

Secondly, the success of the Iraqi government depends on the success of the Iraqi security forces. During our meetings, the Prime Minister and I heard an update from an important group that our government established last month: the Joint Committee on Accelerating the Transferring of Security Responsibility. We agreed on the importance of speeding up the training of Iraqi security forces. Our goal is to ensure that the Prime Minister has more capable forces under his control so his government can fight the terrorists and the death squads, and provide security and stability in his country.

Third, success in Iraq requires a united Iraq where democracy is preserved, the rule of law prevails, and minority rights are respected. The Prime Minister made clear that splitting his country into parts, as some have suggested, is not what the Iraqi people want, and that any partition of Iraq would only lead to an increase in sectarian violence. I agree. In the long-term, security in Iraq requires reconciliation among Iraq's different ethnic and religious communities, something the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want.

The Prime Minister and I also discussed the review of our strategy in Iraq that is now nearing completion. I assured the Prime Minister that our review is aimed at strengthening the capacity of the sovereign government of Iraq to meet their objectives, which we share. As part of the review, I've asked our military leaders in the Pentagon and those on the ground in Iraq to provide their recommendations on the best way forward.

Others outside the government are conducting their own review, and I look forward to hearing their recommendations. I want to hear all advice before I make my decisions about adjustments to our strategy and tactics in Iraq to help this government succeed.

My consultations with the Prime Minister and the unity government are a key part of the assessment process. And that's why I appreciate him coming over from Iraq so that we could have a face-to-face visit. The Prime Minister and I agree that the outcome in Iraq will affect the entire region. To stop the extremists from dominating the Middle East, we must stop the extremists from achieving their goal of dominating Iraq. If the extremists succeed in Iraq, they will be emboldened in their efforts to undermine other young democracies in the region, or to overthrow moderate governments, establish new safe havens, and impose their hateful ideology on millions. If the Iraqis succeed in establishing a free nation in the heart of the Middle East, the forces of freedom and moderation across the region will be emboldened, and the cause of peace will have new energy and new allies.


PRESIDENT BUSH: Our objective is to help the Maliki government succeed. And today we discussed how to further the success of this government. This is a government that is dedicated to pluralism and rule of law. It's a government elected by the Iraqi people under a constitution approved by the Iraqi people, which, in itself, is an unusual event in the Middle East, by the way.

We talked today about accelerating authority to the Prime Minister so he can do what the Iraqi people expect him to do, and that is bring security to parts of his country that require firm action. It's going to -- the presence of the United States will be in Iraq so long as the government asks us to be in Iraq. This is a sovereign government. I believe that there is more training to be done. I think the Prime Minister agrees with me. I know that we're providing a useful addition to Iraq by chasing down al Qaeda and by securing -- by helping this country protect itself from al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda wants a safe haven in Iraq. Al Qaeda made it clear earlier that suicide bombers would increase sectarian violence. That was part of their strategy. One of our goals is to deny safe haven for al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Maliki government expects us and wants us to provide that vital part of security.

So we'll be in Iraq until the job is complete, at the request of a sovereign government elected by the people. I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the government wants us there.

We want the people of Iraq to live in a free society. It's in our interests. In my judgment, if we were to leave before the job is done, it would only embolden terrorists, it would only embolden the extremists. It would dash the hopes of millions of people who want to live in a free society, just like the 12 million people who voted in the Iraqi election. They want to live in a free society. And we support this government, because the government understands it was elected by the people. And Prime Minister Maliki is working hard to overcome the many obstacles in the way to a peaceful Iraq, and we want to help him.


Q Time limit on meeting goals. Is there a time limit on meeting goals?

PRESIDENT BUSH: A time limit. As soon as possible. But I'm realistic, because I understand how tough it is inside of Iraq. The Prime Minister is dealing with sectarian violence. The Prime Minister is having to deal with al Qaeda. The Prime Minister is having to deal with criminal elements. And we want to help him.

And, yes, I talked about making sure that al Qaeda doesn't take -- doesn't provide -- gets safe haven in Iraq. Sure, that's an important part of our strategy. But I also have said that the goal is a country that can defend, sustain, and govern itself. And therefore, to the extent that our troops are needed to help do that, we're willing to do that. That's part of the operation in Baghdad. Part of the plan in Baghdad was to prevent -- prevent killers from taking innocent life.

Q Including sectarian violence?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well that's -- killers taking innocent life is, in some cases, sectarian. I happen to view it as criminal, as well as sectarian. I think any time you murder somebody, you're a criminal. And I believe a just society and a society of -- that holds people to account and believes in rule of law protects innocent people from murderers, no matter what their political party is.

And I discussed this with the Prime Minister, and I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I received a satisfactory answer about the need to protect innocent life. And that's exactly what our troops have been doing, along with the Iraqis. My plan, and his plan, is to accelerate the Iraqis' responsibility. See, here's a man who has been elected by the people; the people expect him to respond, and he doesn't have the capacity to respond. And so we want to accelerate that capacity. We want him to be in the lead in taking the fight against the enemies of his own country.

And that's exactly what we discussed today. We had a Joint Committee on Accelerating the Transfer of Security Responsibility Report. And it was a report that General Casey, who is with us today, and our Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, who is with us today, as well as the Prime Minister's team, delivered to both of us about how to accelerate responsibility to the Iraqi government so this person elected by the people can take the fight to those who want to destroy a young democracy.

You had a question --

Q Sir, there are no time limits here?

PRESIDENT BUSH: As quick as possible, Martha. As quick -- I've been asked about timetables ever since we got into this. All timetables mean is that it -- it is a timetable for withdrawal. You keep asking me those questions. All that does is --

Q Mr. President --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on a second. All that does is set people up for unrealistic expectations. As soon as possible. And today, we made a step toward as soon as possible by transferring a -- accelerating the transfer of authorities, military authorities to the Prime Minister.


PRESIDENT BUSH: .... And it's in our interest to help liberty prevail in the Middle East, starting with Iraq.

And that's why this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all. We're going to help this government. And I'm able to say that it is -- that we have a government that wants our help and is becoming more capable about taking the lead in the fight to protect their own country. The only way that Iraq is going to be able to succeed is when the Iraqis, led by a capable person, says, we're tired of it, we don't want violence, we want the peace that our 12 million people voted for. And it's in the world's interest that Iraq succeed.


- President Bush Participates in Joint Press Availability with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq, November 30, 2006


Tomorrow, I'm going to travel to Jordan where I will meet with the Prime Minister of Iraq. We will discuss the situation on the ground in his country, our ongoing efforts to transfer more responsibility to the Iraqi Security Forces, and the responsibility of other nations in the region to support the security and stability of Iraq. We'll continue to be flexible, and we'll make the changes necessary to succeed. But there's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.


- George W. Bush, President Bush Discusses NATO Alliance During Visit to Latvia, November 28, 2006

LONDON -- Britain said Monday it expects to withdraw thousands of its 7,000 military personnel from Iraq by the end of next year, while Poland and Italy announced the impending withdrawal of their remaining troops.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski said his country, a U.S. ally in Iraq and Afghanistan, would pull its remaining 900 soldiers out of Iraq by the end of 2007. And Italian Premier Romano Prodi said the last of Italy's soldiers in Iraq -- some 60-70 troops -- will return home this week, ending the Italian contingent's presence in the south of the country after more than three years.

British Defense Secretary Des Browne was the second senior official in recent days to talk of reducing the number of British troops in Iraq. In a speech to the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Browne also warned Iran that it faces increasing isolation if it does not use its influence in Iraq constructively.

Last week, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said Britain may be able to hand over security responsibility in the southern port city of Basra by the spring of 2007. Britain also hopes to hand security control over to the Iraqis in the province of Maysan on the Iranian border in January.

"We have said that we and the Iraqis hope they will be ready to take over Maysan in January," Browne said. "We have said -- and the foreign secretary reiterated last week -- that we hope they will be ready to take over Basra in the spring.

"If both of these go to plan, we will be able to start drawing down our forces."

Browne said that handing over security would not mean a complete British withdrawal.

"I do not believe it is right to give precise numbers, nor to assume what the next 12 months will hold.

"But I can tell you that by the end of next year I expect numbers of British forces in Iraq to be significantly lower -- by a matter of thousands. The planning for this has been going on for some months."

Any troop pullback, he said, would be "driven not by arbitrary deadlines but by reality on the ground."

"We will stay as long as we are making a positive difference, and as long as the Iraqi government need our support," Browne said.


- Britain May Start Pulling Out of Iraq, By JENNIFER QUINN, Associated Press Writer, November 27, 2006

I know some have suggested that by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein, we simply stirred up a hornet's nest. They overlook a fundamental fact: We were not in Iraq on September 11, 2001 -- and the terrorists hit us anyway. The fact is they regard the entire world as a battlefield. That's why al Qaeda has operatives in Iraq right now. They are making a stand in that country because they believe they can frighten and intimidate America into a policy of retreat.

Some in our country may believe in good faith that retreating from Iraq would make America safer. Recent experience teaches the opposite lesson. Time and time again over the last generation, terrorists have targeted nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence. To get out before the job is done will convince the terrorists, once again, that free nations will change our policies, forsake our friends, and abandon our interests whenever we are confronted with violence and blackmail. They would simply draw up another set of demands, and instruct Americans to act as they direct or face further acts of murder.

Retreat would also send a message to everyone in that part of the world who trusted us; to the millions of Iraqis and Afghans who have voted in free elections, despite threats from car bombers and assassins; to the hundreds of thousands who have signed on for the security forces; and to leaders like Musharraf and Karzai, who risk their lives every day just by going to work.

They know what is at stake, and so do we. Defeating the terrorists in Iraq is essential to overcoming the advance of extremism in the broader Middle East. As we help Iraq's unity government to defeat common enemies, we build the peace and stability that will help make our own country more secure. There's still tough work ahead, and as the enemy switches tactics we will do the same. As General Pace has put it, "From a military standpoint, every day is reassessment day." We will be flexible. We'll do all we can to adapt to conditions on the ground. We'll make every change needed to do the job. The key is to get Iraqis into the fight, and we'll continue training local forces so they can take the lead in defending their own country. America is going to complete our mission; we're going to get it done right; and then we'll bring our troops home with victory.


U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Remarks at the Federalist Society's National Convention, November 17, 2006


Despite the violence engulfing Baghdad and British-controlled Basra, Mr Blair insisted that British troops were not ready to pull out.

"We are not walking away from Iraq," he said. "We will stay for as long as the government needs us to stay.

"And the reason for that is that what is happening in Iraq, as in Afghanistan, as elsewhere in parts of the Middle East, is a struggle between the decent majority of people, who want to live in peace together, and those who have an extreme and perverted and warped view of Islam, who want to create war.

"In those circumstances, our task has got to be to stand up for the moderates and the democrats against the extremists and the sectarians. They are testing our will at the moment, and our will has not to be found wanting."

- Iraq is a 'disaster' admits Blair, By TIM SHIPMAN, November 17, 2006


©2006 Associated Newspapers Ltd

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Does the departure of Don Rumsfeld signal a new direction in Iraq? A solid majority of Americans said yesterday that they wanted some American troops, if not all, withdrawn from Iraq. Did you hear that call, and will you heed it?

THE PRESIDENT: Terry, I'd like our troops to come home, too, but I want them to come home with victory, and that is a country that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself. And I can understand Americans saying, come home. But I don't know if they said come home and leave behind an Iraq that could end up being a safe haven for al Qaeda. I don't believe they said that. And so, I'm committed to victory. I'm committed to helping this country so that we can come home.

- George W. Bush, Press Conference, November 8, 2006


PARIS, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Thursday that U.S. troops should stay for up to three more years in Iraq to enable local authorities to build up their own security forces.

At the start of a week-long visit to France, Talabani said his country was not in a civil war and accused the media of focusing only on negative stories.

However, he said that "international terrorists" were still concentrating all their efforts in Iraq which meant the country needed outside help to defeat them.

"We need time. Not 20 years, but time. I personally can say that two to three years will be enough to build up our forces and say to our American friends 'Bye bye with thanks'," Talabani told a conference.

Talabani is due to meet French President Jacques Chirac later on Thursday. The Iraqi president said he wanted France to be actively involved in the rebuilding of the country and help train Iraqi forces.

Public pressure is building in both the United States and Britain to bring back troops from Iraq.


- U.S. troops should stay few more years-Iraqi leader, Reuters, November 2, 2006

© Reuters Foundation 2002

Good afternoon, folks. In recent days, the Iraqi and coalition leaders have discussed ways to try to accurately gauge and as appropriate accelerate the efforts for the Iraqi government to assume greater responsibility over their territory, their security and the governance of their country.

As the president noted yesterday, coalition forces will stand with the Iraqi people as they take on a greater role in combating the terrorists and the militants in their country. What's being undertaken here is difficult, complex. It's an enormously challenging process to defeat the terrorists and to build relatively stable allies in countries that have little or no history of representative government, that lack the civil institutions and the capabilities that many of us take for granted here, that have little or no experience with an effective criminal justice system, that lack legitimate financial institutions, and where for decades the local police previously had served not to protect, as they do in our country, but as notorious instruments of the state.

Changing decades of tradition and distrust takes time to be sure, but the alternative is unacceptable. Recently, a magazine column was entitled "Would defeat in Iraq be so bad?" Well, the answer is: Yes, it would be. Those who are fighting against the Iraqi government want to seize power so that they can establish a new sanctuary and a base of operations for terrorists -- not one in the remote mountains of Central Asia, but in the heart of the Middle East with access to the world's energy supplies. And that's not a prospect that anyone should welcome, nor should anyone try to shrug it off as not important. Our troops understand that, and they're working through the difficulties. And any idea that U.S. military leaders are rigidly refusing to make adjustments in their approaches is just flat wrong.

For example, when assessments were made that training the Iraqi army needed to be adjusted to focus on internal security and fighting terrorists, the military didn't say, "Well, let's just keep on doing the same," they changed their training strategy. The result today is a security force of more than 310,000 trained and equipped Iraqis bearing the brunt of the battle for their country, and increasingly taking over chunks of their territory.

When it became clear that the coalition's initial plan for transferring sovereignty could be expedited, the timetable for the transfer of sovereignty was accelerated, and the elections and the drafting of a new constitution went forward. The result was a series of successful, unprecedented elections that transformed the struggle in Iraq from a battle against a foreign occupation to an unpopular assault on the democratically elected government of Iraq.

When commanders decided to move more troops, where needed, in Baghdad to respond to rising sectarian violence, several thousand U.S. troops were brought into Baghdad in a matter of days.

In short, the military is continuing to adapt and to adjust as required. Yes, there are difficulties and problems, to be sure. But the goal of a secure Iraq with a representative government that's at peace with its neighbors is the challenge. It will require more work. It will mean giving our troops and the Iraqi people the time to get the job done. We're blessed to have our fine troops, volunteers each of them, doing a superb job and putting their lives at risk every day to help make the American people safer.


Q Sir, what I don't understand about the benchmark plan, if we can call it that, is what happens if and when the Iraqi government fails to meet the timelines, projections, whatever you want to call them, for some of the major benchmarks? I mean, we've been told that they're not given ultimatums. We've been told -- but we've also been told by the president in recent days that U.S. patience is not unlimited. So there's -- but I don't understand; there must be consequences or responses built into this plan. Can you address that at all?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it's a political season, and everyone's trying to make a little mischief out of this and make -- turn it into a political football and see if we can't get it on the front page of every newspaper and find a little daylight between what the Iraqis say or someone in the United States says or somebody else in the United States says.

And I mean, it is not complicated. I've explained it two or three times. The president did an excellent job of explaining it yesterday.

And the situation is this; it is -- it is that the United States, in the persons of our ambassador and the embassy and General Casey and his team, have been, over a period of time, in continuous discussions with the Iraqi government at various levels, and they've been discussing the way forward through the rest of this year and next year. That's a perfectly logical thing for them to do.

As they do that, they then discuss, well, when might something happen? And it isn't a date and it isn't a penalty if it doesn't. I mean, you're trying to add a degree of formality and finality and punishment to something. My goodness.

You could sit down today and take the remaining 16 provinces in the country and say, well, when -- today, when do we -- the U.S. and the Iraqis -- government -- think that this province might move over to the governance of the Iraqis instead of the multinational force? What about this province and that province? And you could lay out and say, well, in this quarter or this two- or three-month period that might -- we might be able to do that, and lay it out. And as I've said before, in some cases you may beat it; you may do it faster than that. In some cases you may do it later than that. In some cases you may do it exactly when you thought and then find it didn't work out, and then you'd have to go back in, take it back, fix it, and then give it back again.

Now, you're looking for some sort of a guillotine to come flowing down if some date isn't met. That is not what this is about. This is complicated stuff. It's difficult. We're looking out into the future. No one can predict the future with absolute certainty.

So you ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it's complicated, it's difficult, that honorable people are working on these things together; there isn't any daylight between them. They will be discussing this and discussing that; they may have a change here or a change there, but it will get worked out. And the value of it, in my view, is that you are, in effect, establishing priorities. You're saying, among the coalition and the Iraqi government, that the goal is to kind of get from where we are to there, and "there" is having the Iraqis govern their country and provide for their own security. And the way to get there is in steps. And we've already passed over two provinces to the Iraqis, and we've already passed over some divisions to the Iraqi military chain of command.

But it's not just security, it is, as I've said, the reconciliation process is going to have three or four major milestones. You can't know when you're going to find agreement with the Sunnis and the Kurds and the Shi'a on some of these complicated things. You can say, "Well, we'd like to try to do it in the first quarter, or the second quarter," and then you can, you know, work hard to try to achieve that, but you may or may not achieve that. This is -- the situation in Iraq is not going to be solved militarily, obviously. It's political, it's economic, and it's security, and all of those have to go forward. And therefore, it makes it that much -- it's multidimensional; it's that much more difficult to predict when any one of those pieces will, in fact, arrive at what today, sitting here in October of 2006, looks like would be desirable or possible.

And so this is something they're going to work through. And I wouldn't waste a lot of newsprint trying to find daylight between everybody on this, or try to find things that are wrong with it. I think -- the idea of saying, "We're here, we want to get there, here are some steps to get there. Let's go ahead and tell the world that we think those are the steps we want to get there, we've kind of agreed on them," and then see if we can't do it. And then, of course, you can point with alarm and say, "Oh my goodness, you didn't make it." And you can have a front-page article and everyone will have a good time. And we'll say, "That's right, you didn't make it." And then the ones that we make earlier than we thought, we'll never see it on the front page.


Q On benchmarks, without some formality to the process, without some specific incentives or disincentives, doesn't it become just more wishful thinking, which some critics will claim is the way much of the war has been run so far?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, I mean, if you take -- go to the last year or two, there were benchmarks or projections or hopes or expectations. The hope would be that you could draft a constitution and elect a constituent assembly, and that you could have an election based on that constitution -- and they did it, and 12 million people went out and voted. Impressive.

Now, that is a benchmark. The dates, in some cases, were earlier, in some cases were later. But the same thing will be true next year. The advantage of having targets or projections or benchmarks -- whatever you want to call them -- if they're agreed, which they would have to be; you're dealing with a sovereign country, you'd have to come to some understanding -- it drives priorities, it drives their budget. They would have to decide, if those are their priorities, then their budget ought to reflect that. And then they look at the legislative calendar in their parliament, and they'd have to kind of schedule things to fit the reconciliation process or to fit the federalism issue. And those are decisions they're going to have to make.

But what it does is it allows people to point towards something and kind of track along that line. And to the extent they're public, it gives people a sense of that's the direction you're going. And that's encouraging in a democracy for people to say, okay, they've kind of indicated -- when they do; they have not done it yet, obviously, because they haven't come to understandings on it -- but when they do announce it, they'll say, "That's where we're going, out that way. And here are kind of the steps we hope to take." And that means the parliament has to get ready and see if they want to arrange their calendar to fit that, or they may disagree in a democracy. Parliaments occasionally do, we've noticed.

So I think that -- I think there's an advantage in having it public because it's a declaration of your priorities and what you think you would like to accomplish. The risk of it is that someone will say: Oh my goodness, look at there, they missed it by a day or two or a week or something else, and fuss at you. Well, that's life. People fuss anyway. (Scattered laughter.)


Q Mr. Secretary, there were some pretty biting comments from Prime Minister Maliki today. He says he could get control of the violence in Iraq in six months if he had more weaponry and more control over his forces. One quote said, "If anyone is responsible for the poor security situation in Iraq, it is the coalition." And he says, "You have to be careful fighting militias and terrorists because they are better armed than the army and police."

Your thoughts on this?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, first, let's say I haven't seen the remarks. And I like to read -- I certainly accept what you're saying is what you read. I don't know if you were there to hear him say it or that you understood the translation. Certainly I didn't. Therefore, I'm kind of old-fashioned; I'd like to see what he actually said, what the context was, and what the questions being raised. I find almost every day I see all kinds of mythology repeated in the press day after day of things that never happened, just unbelievable what I see.

Now, first of all, he's got a tough job. He's under a lot of pressure. He's got a parliament, he's got a cabinet, he's trying to get things done, and it's difficult. And there's no doubt but that they -- there's a NATO train-and-equip program that's assisting the Iraqis and providing weaponry and things for their security forces. Is it first-line U.S.-type equipment? No. In many cases it's coming from Eastern European countries, and it tends to have Soviet and Russian backgrounds in some of those Eastern European countries, which is where the Iraqi capabilities had been.

And so he sees the contrast, obviously, between our forces' equipment and the equipment that his forces have, and they're not -- it's not as good. And that's fair enough. If I were in his shoes, I'd feel the same way. (Chuckles.) I'd say I need more and better equipment sooner.

Now, what we've done is we have recently -- I've done it three times now, in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan -- been uncomfortable with the proposals that came to me and the path that we were put on for Afghan and Iraqi security forces. And I've had, I think, three separate assessments teams go in and take a look and come back and say, "How do you feel about it today? The situation's changed." So, over a period of 2-1/2 years, we've had, I think, three different assessment teams, and each time they've come back they've had a different view, that the mix ought to be different, or the pace of it ought to be faster.

And so, within the last -- oh, I'm going to guess three months -- I looked at it again, and was again dissatisfied. And I talked to General Dempsey and to the folks in Afghanistan, General Eikenberry, and they have come back in with new proposals as to the levels they believe the security forces in those two countries ought to be, the mix among them, and the emphasis as between combat forces, police, support, airlift, intelligence, and the various other pieces. And we now have that -- my -- our latest set of recommendations circulating in the interagency.

And we intend to do two things; one is to increase the budgets -- their budgets -- they have to increase their budgets as well -- and our effort. And second, to increase the levels of their capabilities, with some adjustments in the mix. And third, to move the date at which it would be accomplished to the left, and try to achieve some of it still sooner, at a higher level than had previously been estimated.

And it shouldn't be any surprise that that's what you have to do in this business. No one is going to sit down and paint a perfect picture. Two, three years ago, they painted what they thought was best, and then we looked at it six months later and didn't like it, and we fixed it up better and tweaked it. And we're in the process of doing that once again. And I think that the prime minister is aware of that and is pleased with it. He may -- I shouldn't say he's aware of it; I don't know, because he wouldn't know the state of play in our interagency process.

But it is -- we are absolutely convinced that the right way to do this is to see that they are able to take care of their own security. And it is an awful lot cheaper for the taxpayers of America to have Iraqi and Afghan soldiers out there providing their security than it is to have coalition forces doing it.


Well, I think the way to think about it is this, that our challenge, and it's tough, is to get the Iraqi people capable of governing and providing security for their country. Therefore, we are functioning in support of that government. And there are people trying to prevent that government from succeeding, and they are of various types. You've heard General Casey comment that -- you say, "Well, who's the enemy?" And the answer is the enemy is different in different parts of the country. There's more than one enemy. There are different elements to the insurgency and to the al Qaeda activities. And there are common criminals who are hired by various elements there to go out and put out IEDs and do various other things.

So -- and there's sectarian violence. And there are also people that would be characterized as al Qaeda or insurgents trying to take over that country, extremists, who are trying to foment sectarian violence and they -- I mean, the golden dome and the intelligence we've received on various pieces of what's taking place was purposeful; it was to try get a civil war going between the Shi'a and the Sunnis.

And therefore, I'm not going to try to characterize and begin at one end of the spectrum, go to the other end of the spectrum and say when is it or is it not appropriate for U.S. military personnel to be involved in the conflict, other than to say that the president addressed it. I have addressed it by saying they're there to support the Iraqi government.

And clearly, sectarian violence can have the effect that the people who are fomenting it want, and that is to cause the government to fail. And our goal is to help the government from failing.


- U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, News Briefing, October 26, 2006



The events of the past month have been a serious concern to me, and a serious concern to the American people. Today I will explain how we're adapting our tactics to help the Iraqi government gain control of the security situation. I'll also explain why, despite the difficulties and bloodshed, it remains critical that America defeat the enemy in Iraq by helping the Iraqis build a free nation that can sustain itself and defend itself.

Our security at home depends on ensuring that Iraq is an ally in the war on terror and does not become a terrorist haven like Afghanistan under the Taliban. The enemy we face in Iraq has evolved over the past three years. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, a sophisticated and a violent insurgency took root. Early on this insurgency was made up of remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, as well as criminals released by the regime. The insurgency was fueled by al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists, who focused most of their attention on high-profile attacks against coalition forces and international institutions.

We learned some key lessons from that early phase in the war. We saw how quickly al Qaeda and other extremist groups would come to Iraq to fight and try to drive us out. We overestimated the capability of the civil service in Iraq to continue to provide essential services to the Iraqi people. We did not expect the Iraqi army, including the Republican Guard, to melt away in the way that it did in the phase of advancing coalition forces.

Despite these early setbacks, some very important progress was made, in the midst of an incredibly violent period. Iraqis formed an interim government that assumed sovereignty. The Iraqi people elected a transitional government, drafted and adopted the most progressive democratic constitution in the Arab world, braved the car bombs and assassins to choose a permanent government under that constitution, and slowly began to build a capable national army.

Al Qaeda and insurgents were unable to stop this progress. They tried to stand up to our forces in places like Fallujah, and they were routed. So they changed their tactics. In an intercepted letter to Osama bin Laden, the terrorist Zarqawi laid out his strategy to drag Iraq's Shia population into a sectarian war. To the credit of the Shia population, they resisted responding to the horrific violence against them for a long time.

Yet the persistent attacks, particularly last February's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of Shia Islam's most holy shrines, eventually resulted in sectarian reprisals. The cycle of violence, in which al Qaeda insurgents attacked Shia civilians and Shia death squads retaliated against Sunnis, has sharply increased in recent months, particularly in Baghdad.

As the enemy shifts tactics, we are shifting our tactics, as well. Americans have no intention of taking sides in a sectarian struggle or standing in the crossfire between rival factions. Our mission is to help the elected government in Iraq defeat common enemies, to bring peace and stability to Iraq, and make our nation more secure. Our goals are unchanging. We are flexible in our methods to achieving those goals.

On the military side, our commanders on the ground are constantly adjusting our tactics to stay ahead of our enemies. We are refining our training strategy for the Iraqi security forces so we can help more of those forces take the lead in the fight, and provide them better equipment and fire power to be successful. We've increased the number of coalition advisors in the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior so they can better plan and execute security operations against the enemy.

We have changed our force structure so we can better respond to the conditions on the ground. For example, during the Iraqi elections, we increased our force levels to more than 150,000 troops to ensure people could vote. Most recently, we have moved additional coalition and Iraqi forces into Baghdad so they can help secure the city and reduce sectarian violence.

After some initial successes, our operations to secure Baghdad have encountered greater resistance. Some of the Iraqi security forces have performed below expectations. Many have performed well and are fighting bravely in some of Baghdad's toughest neighborhoods. Once again, American troops are performing superbly under very difficult conditions. Together, with the Iraqis, they've conducted hundreds of missions throughout Baghdad. They've rounded up or killed key insurgents and death squad leaders.

As we fight this enemy, we're working with the Iraqi government to perform the performance -- to improve the performance of their security forces, so they can regain control of the nation's capital, and eventually resume primary responsibility for their country's security.

A military solution alone will not stop violence. In the end, the Iraqi people and their government will have to make the difficult decisions necessary to solve these problems. So, in addition to refining our military tactics to defeat the enemy, we're also working to help the Iraqi government achieve a political solution that brings together Shia and Sunnis and Kurds and other ethnic and religious groups.

Yesterday, our Ambassador to Iraq, Zal Khalilzad laid out a three-step approach. First, we're working with political and religious leaders across Iraq, urging them to take steps to restrain their followers and stop sectarian violence.

Second, we're helping Iraqi leaders to complete work on a national compact to resolve the most difficult issues dividing their country. The new Iraqi government has condemned violence from all quarters and agreed to a schedule for resolving issues, such as disarming illegal militias and death squads, sharing oil revenues, amending the Iraqi constitution, and reforming the de-Baathification process.

Third, we're reaching out to Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, and asking them to support the Iraqi government's efforts to persuade Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and accept national reconciliation. The international community is also supporting the international compact that outlines the support that will be provided to Iraq as it moves forward with its own program of reform.

These are difficult tasks for any government. It is important for Americans to recognize that Prime Minister Maliki's unity government has been in office for just over five months. Think about that. This young government has to solve a host of problems created by decades of tyrannical rule. And they have to do it in the midst of raging conflict, against extremists from outside and inside the country who are doing everything they can to stop this government from succeeding.

We're pressing Iraq's leaders to take bold measures to save their country. We're making it clear that America's patient [sic] is not unlimited. Yet we also understand the difficult challenges Iraq's leaders face, and we will not put more pressure on the Iraqi government than it can bear. The way to succeed in Iraq is to help Iraq's government grow in strength and assume more control over its country as quickly as possible.

I know the American people understand the stakes in Iraq. They want to win. They will support the war as long as they see a path to victory. Americans can have confidence that we will prevail because thousands of smart, dedicated military and civilian personnel are risking their lives and are working around the clock to ensure our success. A distinguished independent panel of Republicans and Democrats, led by former Secretary of State Jim Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, is taking a fresh look at the situation in Iraq and will make recommendations to help achieve our goals. I welcome all these efforts. My administration will carefully consider any proposal that will help us achieve victory.

It's my responsibility to provide the American people with a candid assessment on the way forward. There is tough fighting ahead. The road to victory will not be easy. We should not expect a simple solution. The fact that the fighting is tough does not mean our efforts in Iraq are not worth it. To the contrary; the consequences in Iraq will have a decisive impact on the security of our country, because defeating the terrorists in Iraq is essential to turning back the cause of extremism in the Middle East. If we do not defeat the terrorists or extremists in Iraq, they will gain access to vast oil reserves, and use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments across the broader Middle East. They will launch new attacks on America from this new safe haven. They will pursue their goal of a radical Islamic empire that stretches from Spain to Indonesia.

I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq. I'm not satisfied, either. And that is why we're taking new steps to help secure Baghdad, and constantly adjusting our tactics across the country to meet the changing threat. But we cannot allow our dissatisfaction to turn into disillusionment about our purpose in this war. We must not look at every success of the enemy as a mistake on our part, cause for an investigation, or a reason to call for our troops to come home. We must not fall prey to the sophisticated propaganda by the enemy, who is trying to undermine our confidence and make us believe that our presence in Iraq is the cause of all its problems

If I did not think our mission in Iraq was vital to America's security, I'd bring our troops home tomorrow. I met too many wives and husbands who have lost their partners in life, too many children who won't ever see their mom and dad again. I owe it to them and to the families who still have loved ones in harm's way to ensure that their sacrifices are not in vain.

Our country has faced adversity before during times of war. In past wars, we've lost young Americans who gave everything to protect our freedom and way of life. In this war, we've lost good men and women who've given their lives for a cause that is necessary and it is just. We mourn every loss, and we must gird ourselves for the sacrifices that are yet to come. America's men and women in uniform are the finest in the world. I'm awed by their strength and their character. As General Casey reported yesterday in Iraq, "the men and women of the Armed Forces... have never lost a battle in over three years in the war." Every American can take pride in our troops, and the vital work they are doing to protect us.

Our troops are fighting a war that will set the course for this new century. The outcome will determine the destiny of millions across the world. Defeating the terrorists and extremists is the challenge of our time and the calling of this generation. I'm confident this generation will answer that call and defeat an ideology that is bent on destroying America and all that we stand for.


And so it's going to take a long time, Terry. I am confident we will succeed. I am confident we'll succeed in Iraq. And the reason I'm confident we'll succeed in Iraq is because the Iraqis want to succeed in Iraq. The ultimate victory in Iraq, which is a government that can sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself, depends upon the Iraqi citizens and the Iraqi government doing the hard work necessary to protect their country. And our job is to help them achieve that objective. As a matter of fact, my view is the only way we lose in Iraq is if we leave before the job is done.


People now understand the stakes. We're winning, and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done. And the crucial battle right now is Iraq. And as I said in my statement, I understand how tough it is, really tough. It's tough for a reason; because people understand the stakes of success in Iraq. And my point to the American people is, is that we're constantly adjusting our tactics to achieve victory.


Q Thank you, Mr. President. Are you considering sending more U.S. troops to Iraq? What would be the justification for it? And how reliable is this new timetable of 12 to 18 months?

THE PRESIDENT: I will send more troops to Iraq if General Casey says, I need more troops in Iraq to achieve victory. And that's the way I've been running this war. I have great faith in General Casey. I have great faith in Ambassador Khalilzad. I trust our commanders on the ground to give the best advice about how to achieve victory. I want to remind you, victory is a government that can sustain itself, govern itself -- a country that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself, and serves as an ally in the war on terror -- which stands in stark contrast to a government that would be chaotic, that would be a safe haven for the enemy to launch attacks on us.

One way for the American people to understand what Iraq could look like is what Afghanistan looked like under the Taliban, a place where there was no freedom; a place where women were taken to the public square and beaten if they did not adhere to the strict, intolerant guidelines of the Taliban; a place where thousands trained to attack America and our allies. Afghanistan doesn't have nearly the resources that Iraq has. Imagine a safe haven for an enemy that ended up with the resources that it had.

It is -- and so this is a war where I say to our generals, do you have what it takes to win. Now, General Casey talked about part of our strategy, and part of the strategy is to give the Iraq government the tools necessary to protect itself, to defend itself. If you're able to defend yourself, you're more likely to be able to govern yourself, as well. But politics -- the political way forward and the military way forward must go hand in hand.

And what the General was saying yesterday is that there is a three-step process to enable the Iraqi forces to be able to help this government bring security. One was to train and equip. The goal is 325,000 troops; 137,000 military and the balance, police.

Second was to put the Iraqi security forces in the lead. Six of ten divisions now are in the lead in helping this government defend itself. The strategy has been to embed U.S. personnel, officers and non-com officers, into these forces to help them gain the confidence and the capacity to be effective when they're in the lead.

And the third step is for the Iraqi security forces to be able to operate independently. And this, perhaps, is going to be one of the most difficult aspects of having the Iraqis ready to go, because that means they have to be able to drive themselves, maintain their vehicles, provide logistics, have combat service support. And that's what General Casey was describing.

The key is that our commanders feel that there -- they have got enough flexibility to design the program to meet the conditions on the ground. You know, last spring, I thought for a period of time we'd be able to reduce our troop presence early next year. That's what I felt. But because we didn't have a fixed timetable, and because General Casey and General Abizaid and the other generals there understand that the way we're running this war is to give them flexibility, have the confidence necessary to come and make the right recommendations here in Washington, D.C., they decided that that wasn't going to happen. And so what he was describing to you was the way forward to make sure that the Iraqis are fully prepared to defend themselves.

Q What about the 12 to 18 month estimate?

THE PRESIDENT: It's a condition, a base estimate. And that's important for the American people to know. This notion about, you know, fixed timetable of withdrawal, in my judgment, is a -- means defeat. You can't leave until the job is done. Our mission is to get the job done as quickly as possible.

Let's see here -- David.

Q Mr. President, for several years you have been saying that America will stay the course in Iraq; you were committed to the policy. And now you say that, no, you're not saying, stay the course, that you're adapting to win, that you're showing flexibility. And as you mentioned, out of Baghdad we're now hearing about benchmarks and timetables from the Iraqi government, as relayed by American officials, to stop the sectarian violence.

In the past, Democrats and other critics of the war who talked about benchmarks and timetables were labeled as defeatists, defeat-o-crats, or people who wanted to cut and run. So why shouldn't the American people conclude that this is nothing from you other than semantic, rhetorical games and all politics two weeks before an election?

THE PRESIDENT: David, there is a significant difference between benchmarks for a government to achieve and a timetable for withdrawal. You're talking about -- when you're talking about the benchmarks, he's talking about the fact that we're working with the Iraqi government to have certain benchmarks to meet as a way to determine whether or not they're making the hard decisions necessary to achieve peace. I believe that's what you're referring to. And we're working with the Iraqi government to come up with benchmarks.

Listen, this is a sovereign government. It was elected by the people of Iraq. What we're asking them to do is to say, when do you think you're going to get this done, when can you get this done, so the people themselves in Iraq can see that the government is moving forward with a reconciliation plan and plans necessary to unify this government.

That is substantially different, David, from people saying, we want a time certain to get out of Iraq. As a matter of fact, the benchmarks will make it more likely we win. Withdrawing on an artificial timetable means we lose.

Now, I'm giving the speech -- you're asking me why I'm giving this speech today -- because there's -- I think I owe an explanation to the American people, and will continue to make explanations. The people need to know that we have a plan for victory. Like I said in my opening comments, I fully understand if the people think we don't have a plan for victory, they're not going to support the effort. And so I'll continue to speak out about our way forward.


This is a tough war in Iraq. I mean, it's a hard fight, no question about it. All you've got to do is turn on your TV. But I believe that the military strategy we have is going to work. That's what I believe, Peter. And so we've made changes throughout the war, we'll continue to make changes throughout the war. But the important thing is whether or not we have the right strategy and the tactics necessary to achieve that goal. And I believe we do.


And I told you what the scenario, Dick, could look like, 20 or 30 years from now, if we leave before the job is done. It's a serious business. And that's why I say it's the call of this generation. And I understand how tough it is, see, but I also said in my remarks, just because the enemy has been able to make some progress doesn't mean we should leave. Quite the contrary; we ought to do everything we can to help prevent them from making progress. And that is what our strategy is.


It's in our government's interest that we help him [Prime Minister Maliki] succeed because he wants a unified country. And I believe we will succeed. I know we're not going to succeed, however, if we set artificial timetables for withdrawal, or we get out of there, or we say to the enemy, just keep fighting, we'll leave soon. That's not going to work. What will work is a strategy that's constantly -- tactics that constantly change to meet the enemy. And that's what I was describing in my speech, we're constantly adjusting. As the enemy changes, we change. War is not a -- this war, and other wars, they're not static. They're dynamic events. And we must adjust to meet those events, and we are.


Q Thank you, Mr. President. Does the United States want to maintain permanent bases in Iraq? And I would follow that by asking, are you willing to renounce a claim on permanent bases in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Jim, any decisions about permanency in Iraq will be made by the Iraqi government. And, frankly, it's not in much of a position to be thinking about what the world is going to look like five or 10 years from now. They are working to make sure that we succeed in the short-term. And they need our help. And that's where our focus is.

But remember, when you're talking about bases and troops, we're dealing with a sovereign government. Now, we entered into an agreement with the Karzai government. They weren't called permanent bases, but they were called arrangements that will help this government understand that there will be a U.S. presence so long as they want them there. And at the appropriate time, I'm confident we'll be willing to sit down and discuss the long-term security of Iraq. But right now we're discussing how to bring security to Baghdad, and what do we do in al Anbar province, where al Qaeda still uses violent methods to achieve political objectives.


Q Thank you, sir. You've long talked about the importance when the federal government is involved in an effort, spending money and resources, of measuring success, accountability, as Peter said. Now you've set some benchmarks on the Maliki government. You've said that you're expecting him to make tough decisions. Can you tell the American people how you plan to measure his success in reaching those benchmarks, and what happens if he doesn't hit those benchmarks?

THE PRESIDENT: David, the first objective is to develop benchmarks that the government agrees with and that we think are important. You can't -- it's really important for the American people to understand that to say, okay, these are the benchmarks you must live with, is not going to work nearly as effectively as if we have -- when we have buy-in from the government itself, the sovereign government of Iraq.

And so the step is to say to the Maliki government, which we're doing, let us work in concert to develop a series of benchmarks to achieve different objectives. And the purpose of that is to assure the Iraqi people that this unity government is going to work to -- for the improvement of the Iraqi people. In other words, it will be beneficial for the government to say to the Iraqi people, here is what we intend to do and here's when we intend to do it.

It will also be beneficial for the American people to be able to see that this Iraqi government is going to make the difficult decisions necessary to move forward, to achieve the goal. And that's what we're talking about when it comes to benchmarks. It's -- again, I repeat: One should not expect our government to impose these benchmarks on a sovereign government. You'd expect us to work closely with that government to come up with a way forward that the government feels comfortable with. And there's probably going to be some bones of contention during these discussions, but, nevertheless, we'll respect the fact that the Iraq government is sovereign, and they must respect the fact that we've got patience, but not unlimited patience.

Q What happens if that patience runs out?

THE PRESIDENT: See, that's that hypothetical Keil is trying to get me to answer. Why do we work to see to it that it doesn't work out -- run out? That's the whole objective. That's what positive people do. They say, we're going to put something in place and we'll work to achieve.


Q Thank you, Mr. President. Your comment earlier that last spring you believed that troops would be able to come home early next year --


Q -- I wonder if you could talk to us about how you came to believe that, and over what period of time, or whether it was a single development because you realized that wasn't feasible.

THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no, look, Mike, here's the way it works. I meet with our -- or talk to our generals all the time. And the security situation looked like at that point in time that beginning next year, we could reduce our troop presence. That's what we felt -- until the conditions on the ground changed. And when they changed, our generals changed their attitude. And when their attitude changed, my attitude changed.

Look, I want to get our troops home as fast as we can. But I do not want to leave before we achieve victory. And the best way to do that is to make sure we have a strategy that works, tactics that adjust to the enemy, and commanders that feel confident making recommendations to the Secretary and to the Commander-in-Chief. And that's how that happened. In other words, they're saying it looks like things are positive, things are stepping up. The security situation is -- looks like it could be this way. And then when it change, we changed. And that's important for the American people to know, that we're constantly changing tactics to meet the situation on the ground.


Q I just wanted to ask you quickly, sir, if you believe that Iraq will be able to defend, sustain and govern itself by the time you leave office?

THE PRESIDENT: Mike, I believe Iraq will be able to defend, govern and sustain itself; otherwise, I'd pull our troops out. See, you all got to understand that. And the parents of our troops must understand, that if I didn't believe we could succeed, and didn't believe it was necessary for the security of this country to succeed, I wouldn't have your loved ones there. That's what I want these parents to hear.

And that's a backhanded way of getting me to put a timetable. My answer is, we'll work as fast as we can get the job done.


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


Q Iraq obviously is the most controversial issue of the administration. The big, I guess, debate that's going on now is over the phrase or the term -- the President has used it in the past -- "stay the course." Now people say, well, we seem to be changing that phrase. What specifically is the administration's position on that phrase, and what does that mean now?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the way I think about it, Sean, is what our objective is obviously. And it's to -- in Iraq to get the situation stabilized with good government, self government, for the Iraqis, with adequate Iraqi security forces to deal with the security threat. That's where we're headed. That's what it takes to complete the mission.

The process for getting there is to get the Iraqis actively involved in this process, to train and equip a 325,000-man force that's capable of providing that security. So I think about it in terms of completing the mission.

Now, strategy has stayed the same pretty much all the way down the road. That is giving the Iraqis a position where they could deal with their own affairs. We change tactics from time to time. We move forces around different areas. Sometimes we've had to beef up our forces in order to deal with anticipated violence when there were national elections. We recently moved troops into Baghdad to help deal with the Baghdad security threat. So we are flexible in terms of how we adapt and adjust to individual circumstances. That's the way I think about it.


- Interview of the Vice President by Sean Hannity, The Sean Hannity Show, October 24, 2006


The top U.S. commander in Iraq said Tuesday that it will take another 12 to 18 months before Iraqi security forces are ready to take over in the country.

"We will continue to adjust our tactics to meet and stay ahead of conditions on the ground," Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said.

Casey's remarks came at a news conference with Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, as the United States reassesses its tactics and strategy in Iraq, where sectarian and insurgent violence persists.

Khalilzad said that "success in Iraq is possible and can be achieved on a realistic timetable."


- CNN, October 24, 2006


© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

Casey said Iraqi forces would be "completely capable" of controlling the country within the next 1 1/2 years.

"We are about 75 percent of the way through a three-step process in building those (Iraqi) forces," the general said. "It is going to take another 12 to 18 months or so until I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security. That's still coupled with some level of support from us."


- U.S. Considers Adding Troops in Baghdad, By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer, October 24, 2006


Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you don't think that Iraq is in the middle of a civil war...

BUSH: Right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... Right now.

BUSH: Right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But whatever you call it, aren't American men and women now dying to prevent Sunnis and Shiites from killing each other?

BUSH: No. George, I -- it's dangerous. And you're right, no matter what you call it.  The fundamental question is: Are we on our way to achieving a goal, which is an Iraq that can defend itself, sustain itself and govern itself and be an ally in the war on terror in the heart of the Middle East.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It seems like, every month, we're going farther from that.

BUSH: Well, I don't know why you would say that. I mean...

STEPHANOPOULOS: The casualties are going up.

BUSH: ... if that's the definition of success or failure, the number of casualties, then you're right. But that's what the enemy knows. See, they try to define success or failure.  I define success or failure as to whether or not the Iraqis will be able to defend themselves. I define success or failure as whether the unity government's making difficult -- the difficult decisions necessary to unite the country.  I define success or failure as whether schools are being built, or hospitals are being opened. I define success or failure as whether we're seeing a democracy grow in the heart of the Middle East.  Because a democracy in the Middle East, a society based upon liberty, will be a defeat for the terrorists, who have clearly said they want a safe haven from which to launch attacks against America, a safe haven from which to topple moderate governments in the Middle East, a safe haven from which to spread their jihadist point of view, which is that there are no freedoms in the world; we will dictate to you how you think.  I know some Americans don't think that is a threat. I view it as a threat because -- and the reason it's a threat is I can conceivably see a world in which radicals and extremists control oil. And they would say to the West: You either abandon Israel, for example, or we're going to run the price of oil up. Or withdraw...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Aren't some of the (inaudible) in the Iraqi government right now, Muqtada al-Sadr?

BUSH: The people voted for a government. And this government is going to have to perform to the will of the people. And that stands in stark contrast to the tyrant that preceded them and to the vision of those who would like to change the governments all throughout the Middle East.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the government format to your standards right now?

BUSH: The government is -- look, I think the guy's been in office for about four months, Maliki. In my judgment, Maliki has got what it takes to lead a unity government.  But what you're seeing is a new form of government actually beginning to evolve after years of tyranny.  I'm patient. I'm not patient forever. And I'm not patient with dawdling. But I recognize the degree of difficulty of the task, and therefore, say to the American people, we won't cut and run.  On the other hand, we'll constantly adjust our strategy to...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Exactly what I wanted to ask you about, because James Baker said that he's looking for something between cut and run...

BUSH: Cut and run and.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... and stay the course.

BUSH: Well, listen, we've never been stay the course, George. We have been -- we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we're constantly adjusting the tactics, constantly.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Here's what I don't get.


STEPHANOPOULOS: James Baker's a smart guy. He's got a solid group of people on that study group. But what can he come up with that you and your military commanders haven't already thought of?

BUSH: Well, why don't we wait and see? I don't -- you know, we're not in collaboration with the Baker-Hamilton committee. I think this is a good idea, to get people outside to come and take a look.   That's an interesting question. I'm looking forward to seeing the answer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, a lot of people think we shouldn't wait, and that if a change of strategy is needed it shouldn't come after the elections, it should come now.

BUSH: Well, they're constantly changing tactics, constantly changing tactics. The strategy -- remember, the goal is, like I defined, a government that can defend, sustain and govern itself. The strategy is a political strategy, a security strategy, and a rebuilding the country strategy. And the tactics inherent in the three strategies, particularly the security strategy, are constantly being adjusted.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (OFF-MIKE) strategy working now?

BUSH: If it's not working, our commanders change it. And there's progress being made on the political front. There is some progress being made on the security front in terms of getting more Iraqi unit. Eventually, it's going to be up to Iraq to defend herself. Eventually it's going to be the decision of the Iraqi people as to whether or not they want a form of government based upon liberty. That's going to be their choice.  Our job is to help them achieve that objective. And so there is some progress.  Look, no question it's violent, but remember why it's violent, because some -- much of the violence is caused by people that want us to leave. And the fundamental question the American people have to make is, should we stay? Should we constantly adjust our tactics to achieve the objective, but is it worth it to be in Iraq?  There's some decent people who say: No, we should have never gone in the first place.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you imagine any circumstances...

BUSH: I wasn't quite through yet.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask the question...



STEPHANOPOULOS: Are U.S. troops going to leave Iraq before you leave the presidency?

BUSH: No. I cannot -- you mean, any U.S. troops?


BUSH: Well, U.S. troops have been leaving Iraq since I've been the president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But complete withdrawal; no way?

BUSH: You mean every single troop out? No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are these midterm elections a referendum on Iraq?

BUSH: You know, I think they're a referendum, from my perspective, which is kind of like your perspective, which is the Washington perspective, based upon: who best to secure this country from further attack and who best to help this economy continue to grow. The truth of the matter is, as you well know, most elections are very local elections. Sometimes those issues are salient, but sometimes there's other issues at the local level as well. I'm not on the ballot. This set of elections is much different from a presidential election year.   I'm going to continue saying: Vote Republican because we have got the best plan to protect you and we'll keep your taxes low to keep this economy growing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're not on the ballot, but we went back and counted. There are 72 Democratic candidates for the House who are putting you in their campaign.

BUSH: Are they saying good things?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so.


BUSH: Look, maybe that strategy will work; maybe it won't work. I've always found that when a person goes in to vote, they're going to want to know what that person's going to do.  What is the plan for a candidate on Iraq? What do they believe?  Frankly, I hear disparate voices all over the place from the Democrats' side about Iraq. We got some saying: Get out. The person I ran against in 2004, Senator Kerry, said at a date certain, time, withdraw.  We got one of the top leaders in the House said: Let's move troops to an island and maybe respond from there.   I would suspect most voters are going to be saying: What is the plan? Or most voters will be saying: How come the majority of Democrats voted against the detainee program where we're going to question high-value detainees to determine whether they've got information necessary to protect the country?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've used some pretty tough rhetoric, though. You said this election's a choice between Republicans and Democrats who want to wave the white flag of surrender in the war on terror.

Can you name a Democrat who wants to wave the white flag of surrender?

BUSH: I can name a Democrat who said there ought to be a date certain from which to withdraw from Iraq, whether or not we've achieved a victory or not. And I...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that surrender?

BUSH: Yes, it is, if you pull the troops out before the job is done. Absolutely, George.   And if we were to -- and if we were to leave before the job is done, in my judgment, the, you know, al Qaeda would find a safe haven from which to attack.  This is exactly what they said.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don't think that's questioning their patriotism when you say that?

BUSH: No. I know it's not questioning their patriotism. I think it's questioning their judgment.


- George Stephanopoulos' Full Interview With President Bush, ABC News, October 22, 2006


Our goal in Iraq is clear and unchanging: Our goal is victory. What is changing are the tactics we use to achieve that goal. Our commanders on the ground are constantly adjusting their approach to stay ahead of the enemy, particularly in Baghdad. General Pete Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, recently put it this way: "From a military standpoint, every day is a reassessment day." We have a strategy that allows us to be flexible and to adapt to changing circumstances. We've changed the way we train the Iraqi security forces. We have changed the way we deliver reconstruction assistance in areas that have been cleared of terrorist influence. And we will continue to be flexible, and make every necessary change to prevail in this struggle.


The terrorists are trying to divide America and break our will, and we must not allow them to succeed. So America will stand with the democratic government of Iraq. We will help Prime Minister Maliki build a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. And we will help Iraq become a strong democracy that is a strong ally in the war on terror.

There is one thing we will not do: We will not pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete. There are some in Washington who argue that retreating from Iraq would make us safer. I disagree. Retreating from Iraq would allow the terrorists to gain a new safe haven from which to launch new attacks on America. Retreating from Iraq would dishonor the men and women who have given their lives in that country, and mean their sacrifice has been in vain. And retreating from Iraq would embolden the terrorists, and make our country, our friends, and our allies more vulnerable to new attacks.

The last few weeks have been rough for our troops in Iraq, and for the Iraqi people. The fighting is difficult, but our Nation has seen difficult fights before. In World War II and the Cold War, earlier generations of Americans sacrificed so that we can live in freedom. This generation will do its duty as well. We will defeat the terrorists everywhere they make their stand, and we will leave a more hopeful world for our children and our grandchildren.


- George W. Bush, Radio Address, October 21, 2006


"We will stay in Iraq, we will fight in Iraq and we will win in Iraq," Bush told Republican contributors in Washington. "Our goal hasn't changed, but the tactics are constantly adjusting to an enemy which is brutal and violent."


- Bush Open to Shift in Iraq War 'Tactics', By Paul Richter and Doyle McManus, Times Staff Writers, October 21, 2006


 Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2006 — President Bush said in a one-on-one interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that a newspaper column comparing the current fighting in Iraq to the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam, which was widely seen as the turning point in that war, might be accurate.

Stephanopoulos asked whether the president agreed with the opinion of columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in The New York Times today that the situation in Iraq may be equivalent to the Tet offensive in Vietnam almost 40 years ago.

"He could be right," the president said, before adding, "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."

"George, my gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we'd leave," Bush said. "And the leaders of al Qaeda have made that very clear. Look, here's how I view it. First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they're trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw."

Bush said he could not imagine any circumstances under which all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq before the end of his presidency.

"You mean every single troop out? No," he told Stephanopoulos.

Bush also had some tough words for Democrats, saying that pulling troops from Iraq would be the equivalent of surrender.

"If we were to leave before the job is done, in my judgment, the al Qaeda would find a safe haven from which to attack. This is exactly what they said," Bush said. The president insisted he was not disparaging his opponents.

"It's not questioning their patriotism. I think it's questioning their judgment," he said.

When asked whether the midterm elections are a referendum on Iraq, the President replied, "I think they're a referendum, from my perspective, which is kind of like your perspective, which is the Washington perspective, based upon: who best to secure this country from further attack and who best to help this economy continue to grow. The truth of the matter is, as you well know, most elections are very local elections. Sometimes those issues are salient, but sometimes there's other issues at the local level as well."

"I'm not on the ballot," Bush said. "This set of elections is much different from a presidential election year."

Stephanopoulos pointed out that 72 Democrats running for the House had used Bush in their campaign ads.

"Are they saying good things?" Bush joked. "Look, maybe that strategy will work; maybe it won't work. I've always found that when a person goes in to vote, they're going to want to know what that person's going to do. What is the plan for a candidate on Iraq? What do they believe?"

Bush said he reads "every casualty."

"The hardest part of the presidency is to meet with families who've lost a loved one," he said.

October is shaping up to be one of the bloodiest months in Iraq since the war began, and the president assessed the situation somberly: "I'm patient. I'm not patient forever. But I recognize the degree of difficulty of the task, and therefore, say to the American people, we won't cut and run."


- George Stephanopoulos Interviews President Bush, ABC News, October 18, 2006


Copyright © 2006 ABCNews Internet Ventures

Q: How long should the United States maintain the current level of troops in Iraq?

A: This is related to the success of the Iraqi security forces and their ability to control the situation. I think it's in America's interest, so they can start leaving sooner rather than later, to hand over responsibility to Iraqi security forces. And put a lot of emphasis on and increase the speed of building our security forces.

If we are successful in building our security forces, and making them capable of controlling the situation, then it's only a matter of months before they can start leaving and freeing themselves from this burden.

Q: Do you mean by the end of the year?

A: What we're aiming for is for the Iraqi security forces to take over the security portfolio entirely and keep some multinational forces only in a supporting role when needed. This requires an exceptional effort by the multinational forces in helping Iraq in equipping and training the Iraqi forces. This would enable the multinational forces to reduce their numbers on a large scale and allow the Iraqi security forces to take responsibility.

Meanwhile, to make this experiment that the multinational forces have begun in Iraq succeed, we could reach an agreement to keep a number of troops here in Iraq to help when necessary.

The fact is, America has achieved successes here by removing a dictatorship and establishing a stable, democratic system. These successes should not be allowed to be lost. Preserving these successes would be a point of victory for America.


- Interview with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki, by USA TODAY's Rick Jervis, October 15, 2006


Copyright 2006 USA TODAY

We understand the objectives of the terrorists. They want to seize control of a country in the Middle East, so they can acquire a base for launching attacks, and oil wealth to finance their ambitions. They want to target and overthrow other governments in the region, and eventually to establish a totalitarian empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way around to Indonesia. They have declared, as well, their ultimate aims: to arm themselves with chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons; to destroy Israel; to intimidate all Western countries and to cause great harm to the United States. We are their prime target. They hate us, they hate our country, they hate the liberties for which we stand. They want to destroy our way of life, so that freedom no longer has a home and defender in this world. That leaves us only one option: to rise to America's defense, to take the fight directly to the enemy, and to accept no outcome but victory for the cause of freedom.

The war on terror is difficult because the enemy sees the entire world as a battlefield. That's why al Qaeda has operatives in Iraq right now. Bin Laden himself calls this conflict the "third world war", and he knows the stakes as well as we do. If the terrorists were to succeed, they would return Iraq to the rule of tyrants, make it a source of instability in the Middle East, and use it as a staging area for more attacks. The terrorists also know that as freedom takes hold, the ideologies of hatred and resentment will lose their appeal, and the advance of liberty, equality, and self government in the broader Middle East will lead to a much safer world for our children and our grandchildren.

The terrorists know they cannot beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have. The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission. So they continue committing acts of random horror, believing they can intimidate the civilized world and break the will of the American people. They base this view, in part, on the history of the 1980s and '90s, when they concluded that if they killed enough Americans, they could change American policy. In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 of our service members. Thereafter, US forces withdrew from Beirut. In Mogadishu in 1993, terrorists killed 19 Americans. Thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Somalia.

The attacks continued: the first bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993; the murders at the Saudi Arabia National Guard training facility in 1995; the attack on Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. With each attack, the terrorists grew more confident in believing they could strike America without paying a price. So they kept at it, and eventually struck the homeland here on September 11th and killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens. Bin Laden continues to predict that the people of the United States simply do not have the stomach to stay in the fight against terror.

But this nation has learned the lessons of history. We know that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness. We know that if we leave Iraq before the mission is completed, the enemy will simply come after us. Having seen our interests attacked repeatedly over the years, and knowing the ambitions of the terrorists, this nation has made a decision: We will engage these enemies. We'll face them far from home, so we do not have to face them on the streets of our own cities.

Our strategic goal in Iraq is a nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror. Having been on the ground, all of you know that we've made progress -- not easily, but steadily. And we can be confident going forward. By voting in free elections, by ratifying a constitution, by going to the polls with a voter turnout rate higher than that in our country, the Iraqi people have shown they value their liberty and are determined to choose their own destiny.

America is a good and a generous country. We're showing the Iraqi people the true character of the United States. Members of our military have worked diligently to make sure that more Iraqi families have police protection, and electricity, and water, and sanitation for their homes. By your openness and your decency, by your honor and your kindness to others in thousands of interactions, you've built bonds of friendship that are very important to our two countries. It's a sign that much is right with the world as a democratically-elected people works to serve the government, end the violence, and resolve differences through peaceful means, while Saddam Hussein, the tyrant who filled mass graves and terrorized Iraq for decades, sits in a courtroom facing the truth and awaiting justice.

In all the difficult work that lies ahead, the Iraqi people can know that the United States is a nation that keeps its word. We'll continue the work of reconstruction. We'll continue striking the enemy -- conducting raids, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers. We'll continue training Iraqi forces so they can defend their own country and make it a source of stability in a troubled region. We'll change our tactics as necessary to achieve the mission, as we have 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 time lines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.


U.S. Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney, Vice President's Remarks at a Rally for the 101st Airborne Division, October 16, 2006


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



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



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.


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


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.


Steve, we're constantly changing tactics to achieve a strategic goal. Our strategic goal is a country which can defend itself, sustain itself, and govern itself. The strategic goal is to help this young democracy succeed in a world in which extremists are trying to intimidate rational people in order to topple moderate governments and to extend a caliphate.

The stakes couldn't be any higher, as I said earlier, in the world in which we live. There are extreme elements that use religion to achieve objectives. And they want us to leave, and they want us to -- and they want to topple government. They want to extend an ideological caliphate that is -- has no concept of liberty inherent in their beliefs. They want to control oil resources, and they want to plot and plan and attack us again. That's their objectives. And so -- and our strategic objective is to prevent them from doing that. And we're constantly changing tactics to achieve that objective.

And I appreciate Senator Warner going over there and taking a look. I want you to notice what he did say is, if the plan is now not working -- the plan that's in place isn't working, America needs to adjust. I completely agree. That's what I talk to General Casey about. I said, General, the Baghdad security plan is in its early implementation. I support you strongly, but if you come into this office and say we need to do something differently, I support you. If you need more troops, I support you. If you're going to devise a new strategy, we're with you, because I trust General Casey to make the judgments necessary to put the tactics in place to help us achieve an objective.

And I appreciate Jimmy Baker willingness to -- he and Lee Hamilton are putting this -- have got a group they put together that I think was Congressman Wolf's suggestion -- or passing the law. We supported the idea. I think it's good to have some of our elder statesmen -- I hate to call Baker an elder statesmen -- but to go over there and take a look, and to come back and make recommendations. Somebody said he said, well, you know, cut-and-run isn't working. That's not our policy. Our policy is to help this country succeed, because I understand the stakes. I'm going to repeat them one more time. As a matter of fact, I'm going to spend a lot of time repeating the stakes about what life is like in the Middle East.

It is conceivable that there will be a world in which radical forms, extreme forms of religion fight each other for influence in the Middle East, in which they've got the capacity to use oil as an economic weapon. And when you throw in the mix a nuclear weapon in the hands of a sworn enemy of the United States, you begin to see an environment that would cause some later on in history to look back and say, how come they couldn't see the problem? What happened to them in the year 2006? Why weren't they able to see the problems now and deal with them before it came too late, Steve?

And so Iraq is an important part of dealing with this problem. And my vow to the American people is I understand the stakes, and I understand what it would mean for us to leave before the job is done. And I look forward to listening how -- what Jimmy Baker and Lee Hamilton say about how to get the job -- I appreciate them working on this issue because I think they understand what I know, and the stakes are high.


I believe that the situation in Iraq is, no question, tough on the American psyche, like I said I think at this very spot last time I faced the press corps. And it's serious business. Look, the American people want to know, can we win -- that's what they want to know -- and do we have a plan to win. There are some who say, get out, it's not worth it. And those are some of the voices, by the way, in the Democrat Party. Certainly not all Democrats, but some of the loud voices in the party say, get out.


And Iraq is a part of the war on terror. Now, I recognize Democrats say that's not the case, and what I say to the American people when I am out there is, all you got to do is listen to what Osama bin Laden says. Don't believe me that it's a part of the war on terror; listen to the enemy, or listen to Mr. Zawahiri, the number two of al Qaeda, both of whom made it clear that Iraq is central in their plans. And I firmly believe that the American people understand that this is different from other war because in this war if we were to leave early before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here.


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


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


© 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


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


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


© 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


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


© 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


© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

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, 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 "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


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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

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

What is the latest exit strategy from Iraq?

What is the Iraq exit strategy?

What is the exit strategy from Iraq?

What is the Iraq war's exit strategy?

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

What is the Iraq war's official exit strategy?


Page created on February 7, 2005



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


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

All content Copyright © 2006 Don Hodges
Various logos are trademarks of their respective companies.
Send Email to Don Hodges

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by