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Bush Sending More US Troops to Afghanistan

U.S. President George Bush is sending more U.S. forces to Afghanistan while withdrawing about 8,000 troops from Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports those wars and U.S. troop levels are part of this year's presidential campaign.

President Bush 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 3,000 aviation personnel, construction engineers and military police.

"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," he said. "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."

Speaking to military commanders at the National Defense University in Washington, Mr. Bush said Tuesday that there now appears to be a degree of durability to security gains in Iraq that the president ascribes to his decision to send reinforcements last year.

With the withdrawal of 8,000 troops by early next year, there will be slightly more American forces in Iraq than before the surge.

Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain supported the surge. His Democratic opponent, Senator Barack Obama, did not.

In a written statement, McCain said Obama is "utterly confused" by the progress in the war in Iraq. McCain called Obama's vow to withdraw all U.S. troops within 16 months "profoundly irresponsible".

Speaking to reporters in Ohio, Obama said withdrawing troops 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."

In addition to the withdrawals from Iraq, President Bush is sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan where he says Taliban attacks are shaking the confidence of the Afghan people.

"Afghanistan's success is critical to the security of America and our partners in the free world," the president said. "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."

In November, a Marine battalion that was scheduled to go to Iraq will instead deploy to Afghanistan. They will be followed in January by an Army combat brigade.

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

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

President Bush says the United States must help Pakistan defeat Taliban and al-Qaida fighters who are using remote border regions to destabilize both Afghanistan and Pakistan.