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Officials: Bush to Announce Troop Cut

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  • Marenda W.
    http://apnews.myway.com/article/20070912/D8RJLLRO0.html Officials: Bush to Announce Troop Cut Sep 11, 11:18 PM (ET) By MATTHEW LEE and ANNE FLAHERTY WASHINGTON
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 11, 2007
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      http://apnews.myway.com/article/20070912/D8RJLLRO0.html

      Officials: Bush to Announce Troop Cut
      Sep 11, 11:18 PM (ET) By MATTHEW LEE and ANNE FLAHERTY

      WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush will tell the nation Thursday evening
      that he plans to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq by as many
      as 30,000 by next summer but will condition those and further cuts on
      continued progress, The Associated Press has learned.

      In a 15-minute address from the White House at 9 p.m. EDT, Bush will
      endorse the recommendations of his top general and top diplomat in
      Iraq, following their appearance at two days of hearings in Congress,
      administration officials said. The White House plans to issue a
      written status report on the troop buildup on Friday, they said.

      The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Bush's speech is
      not yet final. Bush was rehearsing and polishing his remarks even as
      the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador
      Ryan Crocker were presenting their arguments for a second day on
      Capitol Hill.

      In the speech, the president will say he understands Americans' deep
      concerns about U.S. involvement in Iraq and their desire to bring the
      troops home, they said. Bush will say that, after hearing from
      Petraeus and Crocker, he has decided on a way forward that will reduce
      the U.S. military presence but not abandon Iraq to chaos, according to
      the officials.

      The address will stake out a conciliatory tone toward Congress. But
      while mirroring Petraeus' strategy, Bush will place more conditions on
      reductions than his general did, insisting that conditions on the
      ground must warrant cuts and that now-unforeseen events could change
      the plan.

      Petraeus recommended that a 2,000-member Marine unit return home this
      month without replacement. That would be followed in mid-December with
      the departure of an Army brigade numbering 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers.
      Under the general's plan, another four combat brigades would be
      withdrawn by July 2008.

      That could leave the U.S. with as few as 130,000-135,000 troops in
      Iraq, down from about 168,000 now, although Petraeus was not precise
      about whether all the about 8,000 support troops sent with those extra
      combat forces would be withdrawn by July.

      Petraeus said he foresaw even deeper troop cuts beyond July, but he
      recommended that Bush wait until at least March to decide when to go
      below 130,000 - and at what pace.

      At the White House, Bush met with House and Senate lawmakers of both
      parties and he publicly pledged to consider their views. Senate
      Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the president didn't talk
      about the nationwide address.

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush appears poised merely
      to bring the country back to where it was before the election that put
      Democrats in control of Congress - with 130,000 troops in Iraq.

      "Please. It's an insult to the intelligence of the American people
      that that is a new direction in Iraq," she said. "We're as
      disappointed as the public is that the president has a tin ear to
      their opinion on this war."

      In his speech, Bush will adopt Petraeus' call for more time to
      determine the pace and scale of future withdrawals and offer to report
      to Congress in March, one official said.

      As Petraeus and Crocker have, Bush will acknowledge difficulties, and
      the fact that few of the benchmarks set by Congress to measure
      progress of the buildup have been met, the official said. Yet, he will
      stress that a precipitous U.S. withdrawal would be a catastrophe for
      Iraq and U.S. interests.

      The president will discuss "bottom up" security improvements, notably
      in Anbar Province, which he visited on Labor Day and where Sunni
      leaders have allied themselves with U.S. forces to fight insurgents.
      And, he will note incremental progress on the political front despite
      unhelpful roles played by Iran and Syria, the official said.

      Crocker was particularly keen on detailing diplomatic developments,
      including Saudi Arabia's move to open an embassy in Baghdad and a
      third conference of Iraqi neighbors to be hosted by Turkey in Istanbul
      at the end of October.

      In Congress, cracks in Republican support for the Iraq war remained,
      as epitomized by heated questioning Tuesday of Petraeus.

      "Is this a mission shift?" asked Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. "Are
      we continuing down the same path that we have laid out before,
      entirely reliant on the ability of the Iraqis to come together to
      achieve that political reconciliation?"

      Sen. Norm Coleman said he wants a longer-term vision other than
      suggestions that Petraeus and Crocker return to Capitol Hill in
      mid-March to give another assessment. "Americans want to see light at
      the end of the tunnel," said Coleman, R-Minn.

      Many rank-and-file Republicans say they are deeply uneasy about
      keeping troops in Iraq through next summer, but they also remain
      reluctant to embrace legislation ordering troops home by next spring.
      Democrats, under substantial pressure by voters and politically
      influential anti-war groups, had anticipated that a larger number of
      Republicans by now would have turned against Bush on the war because
      of grim poll numbers and the upcoming 2008 elections.

      Indeed, Petraeus' testimony helped to solidify support elsewhere in
      the GOP, keeping Democrats far from the 60 votes they needed to pass
      legislation ordering troops home.

      "Americans should be happy that we can begin to reduce troop levels
      months ahead of schedule," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

      "I'm optimistic that when the votes are counted, they'll be roughly
      the same as they have been all year," said McConnell, the Senate
      Republican leader. "As you know, we've lost some, but not a lot and I
      think that's a likely outcome again."

      Echoing testimony given to the House on Monday, Petraeus and Crocker
      acknowledged that Iraq remains largely dysfunctional but said violence
      had decreased since the influx of added U.S. troops.

      Crocker said he fears that announcing troop withdrawals, as Democrats
      want, would focus Iraqi attention on "building the walls, stocking
      ammunition and getting ready for a big nasty street fight" rather than
      working toward reconciliation. "It will take longer than we initially
      anticipated" for Iraq's leaders to address the country's problems, he
      said.

      The two days of testimony seemed to turn the debate away from the list
      of 18 benchmarks by which the White House and Iraq's government had
      said earlier this year that they preferred to measure progress. The
      administration has protested more recently that the benchmarks offer
      an unrealistic or incomplete look at the situation.

      The hearing fell on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
      attacks.

      In an unusual admission, Petraeus said he was not sure whether his
      proposal on Iraq would make America safer.

      A visibly heated Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked the question to which
      Petraeus said: "Sir, I don't know, actually. I have not sat down and
      sorted that out in my mind. What I have focused on and riveted on is
      how to accomplish the mission of the multinational force Iraq."
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