CBNNews.com - President Bush has decided not to order additional troop drawdowns for now, accepting the recommendations of his top war commander Gen. David Petraeus.
This could mean that about 140,000 U.S. troops will still be in the war zone when the next President takes office.
Bush Shortens Deployments
During a televised address today, Bush announced that Army units heading to Iraq after Aug. 1 would serve 12-month tours rather than their current 15-month deployment. "We have renewed and revived the prospect of success," he said.
War critics say the President had to shorten tours to ease strain on the Army.
Bush's speech echoed the congressional testimony Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker.
Petraeus told Congress that it's too early to talk about future drawdowns because the situation in Iraq remains fragile.
Bush will refrain from ordering any more troop cutbacks before mid- to late-September at the earliest.
Even then, flare-ups in violence and a need to keep Iraq's provincial elections safe this fall could mean the President will not be able to withdraw any more troops until late this year, if at all.
"I've told him (Petraeus) he'll have all the time he needs," Bush said. "Some have suggested that this period of evaluation will be a pause. That's misleading, because none of our operations in Iraq will be on hold. Instead we will use the months ahead to take advantage of the opportunities created by the surge and continue operations across the board."
Bush made the case that his troop buildup has succeeded in reducing violence in Iraq, despite recent increases in Baghdad and Basra. He'll have a harder time arguing that political reconciliation has been achieved.
After Petraeus' war update in September, Bush said the principle guiding his decisions on troop levels was "return on success."
He said then that the additional troops he ordered to Iraq had improved security enough that they could be pulled out by the end of July.
That would bring the current level of 160,000 troops in Iraq now to about 140,000 in July.
Beyond that, Petraeus wants a 45-day period of "consolidation and evaluation," to be followed by an indefinite period of assessment before he would recommend any further pullouts.
A Warning for Iran
Bush also took time out to issue a challenge to Iran: Either live in peace with Iraq or continue funding and training the militant groups terrorizing the Iraqi people - a charge Iran has denied.
"If Iran makes the right choice, America will encourage a peaceful relationship between Iran and Iraq," Bush said. "Iran makes the wrong choice, America will act to protect our interests, and our troops, and our Iraqi partners."
Source: The Associated Press