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Bush: Iraq Decisions Will Not Be Affected By 'Politics of 2008'


President Bush says America's election-year politics will not affect his commitment to keep U.S. troops in Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Bush says his decision to send more troops to Iraq has helped improve security.

President Bush says he will carefully consider the recommendations of U.S. military and diplomatic chiefs in Baghdad when they deliver their status report on the war next month.

But he told a convention of religious broadcasters in the southern state of Tennessee he can say his decision to send 30,000 reinforcements to Iraq last year is making a difference.

"Since the surge began, sectarian killings are down and al-Qaida has been driven from many strongholds it once held. I strongly believe the surge is working and so do the Iraqis," he said.

President Bush says the success of the surge has allowed him to bring some U.S. troops home from Iraq. But the pace of future withdrawals will depend on the recommendations of the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and the top U.S. commander there, General David Petraeus.

Mr. Bush says troop withdrawals is a decision for commanders on the ground not politicians in Washington. "The politics of 2008 is not going to enter in my calculation. It is the peace of the years to come that will enter into my calculation," he said.

The president says recent gains in Iraq are fragile and reversible because the enemy there is resilient.

White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino says this was the first in a series of speeches the president will give on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before next month's report from Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus as well as April's NATO summit in Romania.

All 26 members of the NATO alliance have troops in Afghanistan, but some have restrictions on their deployment that keep their soldiers out of areas where combat with Taliban fighters is more likely.

President Bush wants more NATO troops on the front lines. At the Bucharest summit, he says he will thank alliance members for standing with what he says are the brave Afghans of a young democracy. "I will also ask NATO to join the United States in doing even more. Now is the time for nations to make the hard decisions necessary so our children can grow up in a more peaceful world," he said.

The war in Iraq continues to be a big part of campaigning to succeed President Bush in 2009. Presumptive Republican candidate John McCain generally supports the president's current policy in Iraq. Democratic contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both say they would move faster to withdraw more U.S. forces.

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