Below are excerpts from the advance text of a speech President Bush is scheduled to deliver Tuesday to the National Defense University, which was released by the White House Monday. The excerpts deal with troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The reduced levels of violence in Iraq have now been sustained for several months. While the progress in Iraq is still fragile and reversible, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker report that there now appears to be a “degree of durability” to the gains we have made.
Here is the bottom line: While the enemy in Iraq is still dangerous, we have seized the offensive, and Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly capable of leading and winning the fight. As a result, we have been able to carry out a policy of “return on success” – reducing American combat forces in Iraq as conditions on the ground continue to improve.
We have now brought home all five of the Army combat brigades, the Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the two Marine battalions, that were sent to Iraq as part of the surge. I was proud to visit with some of our returning troops at Fort Bragg earlier this year. They are among our Nation’s finest citizens. The American people are grateful for their courage and proud of their accomplishments.
Another aspect of our “return on success” policy is reduced combat tours in Iraq. Last month, troops began deploying for 12-month tours instead of 15-month tours. This change will ease the burden on our forces, and make life easier for the military families that support them.
Today, I am pleased to announce the next step forward in our policy of “return on success.” General Petraeus has just completed a review of the situation in Iraq – and he and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended that we move forward with additional force reductions. Over the next several months, we will bring home about 3,400 combat support forces – including aviation personnel, explosive ordnance teams, combat and construction engineers, military police, and logistical support forces. By November, we will bring home a Marine battalion that is now serving in Anbar province. And in February of 2009, another Army combat brigade will come home. This amounts to about 8,000 additional American troops returning home without replacement. And if the progress in Iraq continues to hold, General Petraeus and our military leaders believe additional reductions will be possible in the first half of 2009.
Afghanistan’s success is critical to the security of America and our partners in the free world. And for all the good work we have done in that country, it is clear we must do even more. As we learned in Iraq, the best way to restore the confidence of the people is to restore basic security – and that requires more troops. So today, I am announcing additional American troop deployments to Afghanistan. In November, a Marine battalion that was scheduled to deploy to Iraq will instead deploy to Afghanistan. It will be followed in January by an Army combat brigade. The mission of these forces will be to work with Afghan forces to provide security for the Afghan people, protect Afghanistan’s infrastructure and democratic institutions and help ensure access to services like education and health care. They will show citizens that the Afghan government and its partners stand with them in the battle against the terrorists and the Taliban. And they will help clarify a stark contrast in Afghanistan: While the terrorists and extremists deliberately target and murder the innocent, Coalition and Afghan forces risk their lives to protect the innocent.
Source: White House press release dated 8 September 2008