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Bush Sending More Troops to Afghanistan


U.S. President George Bush is sending more troops to Afghanistan and will withdraw some 8,000 forces from Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says a Marine battalion scheduled to arrive in Iraq in November will instead go to Afghanistan. It will be followed in January by an Army combat brigade.

"This continuing commitment to the Afghan people illustrates a stark contrast: While the terrorists and extremists deliberately target and murder the innocent, coalition and Afghan forces risk their lives to protect the innocent," he said.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush says America remains on the offensive in Iraq. He says there now appears to be a degree of durability to security gains following his decision last year to send 30,000 reinforcements.

"While the enemy in Iraq is still dangerous, we seized the offensive, and Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly capable of leading and winning the fight," he added. "As a result, we've been able to carry out a policy of 'return on success' - reducing the number of American combat forces in Iraq as conditions on the ground there continue to improve."

The president says some 8,000 troops will leave Iraq by next February including a Marine battalion from Anbar Province, an Army combat brigade and more than three-thousand aviation personnel, construction engineers, and military police.

Mr. Bush first announced that decision in a speech to U.S. military commanders this past week.

His party's presidential candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain, responded to that address by praising the president's decision to send reinforcements to Iraq. In a written statement, McCain criticized his rival, Democratic candidate Barack Obama, for vowing to withdraw all U.S. troops within 16 months, calling that profoundly irresponsible.

Obama responded to the president's announcement this past week by telling reporters in Ohio that a timetable for a troop withdrawal will force Iraq's political leaders to take more responsibility for their own security.

"In the absence of a timetable to remove our combat brigades, we will continue to give Iraq's leaders a blank check instead of pressing them to reconcile their differences," he said. "So the president's talk of return on success is a new name for continuing the same strategic mistakes that have dominated our foreign policy for over five years."

Obama and McCain both support more troops for Afghanistan, but Obama said the president's action is insufficient because the most substantial increase will not come for another five months.

"His plan comes up short. It is not enough troops not enough resources with not enough urgency," he added.

Public opinion polls show the war in Iraq is second only to the economy as the most important issue on the minds of voters ahead of November presidential elections.

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