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Bush Says Next Few Months Critical in Iraq


President Bush says U.S. troops in Iraq face a critical time during the next few months as they try to implement his new strategy. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the last of the additional 30,000 troops Mr. Bush is sending to Iraq should be in place by the middle of June.

President Bush says Americans should expect more casualties as the full complement of forces in this troop surge enter combat.

"As these reinforcements carry out their missions, the enemies of a free Iraq, including al-Qaida and illegal militias, will continue to bomb and murder in an attempt to stop us," he said. "We are going to expect heavy fighting in the [next] weeks and months. We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties."

The president is trying to rally public support for a war that most Americans now believe is a mistake. An Associated Press poll this month showed nearly two thirds of Americans disapprove of his handling of the war.

Mr. Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden that he understands that frustration, but is confident that defeating terrorists in Iraq is central to America's national security.

"It is a tough fight and it has obviously had an effect on the American people," he said. "Americans want to know when you are going to win."

The president says victory will come when Iraq is stable enough to be an ally in the war on terror, govern itself, and defend itself.

Earlier this month, Mr. Bush said the troop surge was beginning to show signs of progress by reducing sectarian violence in the capital.

Asked about reports that Baghdad morgue data show an increase in such killings, the president said there has been an uptick in violence. He called it a snapshot, a moment that will be included in a September assessment of the troops surge by General David Petraeus.

Democrats in Congress say they want to see significant progress in that report or they will again consider cutting funds for the war.

Democrats have dropped their demands for a timetable for a troop withdrawal in a revised war funding bill that is expected to pass both the House and Senate.

The $120 billion measure funds military operations through September and includes billions of dollars for domestic projects as well as an increase in the minimum wage.

It includes a set of political and security benchmarks the Iraqi government must achieve or risk losing vital reconstruction aid. But those are not the binding timetables originally sought by Democrats in legislation the president vetoed earlier this month.

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