Bush Expected to Endorse Iraq Troop Cut
President Bush will discuss his Iraq strategy in a nationwide television address Thursday, when he is expected to endorse a recommendation by Gen. David Petraeus to withdrawal about 30,000 troops by the end of next summer.
The speech, scheduled for 9 p.m. EDT, follows congressional testimony this week from Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. During hearings before House and Senate committees, Petraeus said he believed a partial drawdown of troops would be possible by July.
The Associated Press, quoting unnamed White House officials, said the planned 15-minute address would endorse the proposal Petraeus made public during his testimony on Monday. The White House plans to issue a written status report on the troop buildup on Friday, the AP said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Bush's speech is not yet final. Bush was rehearsing and polishing his remarks even as the Petraeus and Crocker were presenting their arguments for a second day on Capitol Hill, the news agency said.
Over two days of testimony, Petraeus said that the American troop presence in Iraq — currently at 160,000 — could be gradually reduced to the "pre-surge" level. Crocker, meanwhile, has warned that the political situation remains unstable. During Tuesday's testimony, the two men refused to be pinned down on when the situation in Iraq might allow for an end to the U.S. military commitment there.
' ... At the Beginning of a Long Process ... '
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that stabilizing Iraq will be a lengthy process. Her comments appeared aimed at lowering expectation for any wider withdrawal of U.S. forces in the short- to medium-term.
"We're at the beginning of a transition in the Middle East, we're at the beginning of a long process of dealing with what the president called a long time ago a generational challenge to our security brought on by extremism coming principally out of the Middle East," Rice said.
Rice said the U.S. views the task of stabilizing Iraq as not simply improving security within its borders but "to begin to have American forces in lower numbers turn to other responsibilities." Among those, she said, is "the territorial security of Iraq" with respect to its Mideast neighbors, especially Iran.
"Iran is a very troublesome neighbor," she said on NBC's Today show. "Iran is prepared to fill the vacuum" if the United States leaves Iraq.
Debate Continues Next Week
The Senate was expected to resume debate on the war next week, although party leaders have yet to announce what measures will be put to a vote.
"I don't sense an enhanced sense of skittishness, if that's what you're asking here, on the part of Republican colleagues of mine in the Senate," the party's leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, told reporters.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press
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