President Bush is hailing progress in the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, while warning that patience will be needed as these two countries build functioning democracies and security forces.
After a briefing at the Pentagon from top military officers, President Bush put the focus on the positive.
He made no promises, but spoke of troop withdrawals in both Iraq and Afghanistan as conditions warrant.
Mr. Bush stressed once again that his decisions will be driven by the situation on the ground and not by domestic political consideration. He noted that in Iraq, U.S. force levels are now several thousand below the 138,000 baseline that existed before last month's national election.
"Later this year if Iraqis continue to make progress on the security and political sides that we expect, we can discuss further possible adjustments," he said.
The president said challenges remain as Iraq's leaders go about the process of building a new government. He spoke of the delicate balancing act they face in creating a government that is unified and inclusive. And while he praised efforts to train a new Iraqi military, he made clear the national police force needs more work. Mr. Bush said police abuses are unacceptable and action is being taken to prevent them from occurring.
"We are going to work with the Iraqi government to increase the training Iraqi police recruits receive in human rights and the rule of law so they understand the role of police in a democratic society," he said.
President Bush called Iraq and Afghanistan the two leading fronts in the global war on terror. He said like the Iraqis, Afghans are on the road to a democratic society. He said Afghan troops have fared well in battle, according to U.S. military commanders. And he noted that international forces are taking over more and more of the security duties in Afghanistan, enabling the United States to reduce some troop levels.
"As NATO takes on a larger role in Afghanistan and as the capability of Afghan forces continues to grow, the United States will reduce force levels in Afghanistan from 19,000 to 16,500 this year," the president said.
The president went on to stress, however, that U.S. special forces will not be leaving and will continue their hunt in Afghanistan for al-Qaida leaders and remnants of the ousted Taleban regime.