Bush: Iraq Troop Tours to be Reduced

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President Bush declared steady improvement in the Iraq War Thursday, saying terrorists "are on the run." The President also announced the improved security conditions would permit further U.S. troop reductions.

Standing just outside of the White House and only a few steps away from the Oval Office, Bush also announced that effective Friday, U.S. troop tours in Iraq will be reduced from the current 15 months to 12 months.

Bush said this reduction "will relieve the burden on our forces and it will make life easier for our wonderful military families."

The President also gave a brief report on the progress of the war in Iraq, now in its sixth year.

Bush said that Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, however, "caution that the progress is still reversible, and they report that there now appears to be a degree of durability to the gains that we have made."

"We are now in our third consecutive month with reduced violence levels holding steady," Bush said.

While the next recommendation on troop levels will come from U.S. commanders, Bush said he expects "further reductions in our combat forces, as conditions permit."

"The progress in Iraq has allowed us to continue our policy of return on success," he said. "We have now brought home all five of the combat brigades and the three Marine units that were sent to Iraq as part of the surge. The last of these surge brigades returned home this month."

More than 147,000 U.S. military personnel are presently deployed in Iraq.

Bush said the United States and Iraq also are pressing forward with talks on an agreement that would set the terms for any future U.S. presence and noted that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently had a productive visit with other foreign leaders.

"We are also making progress in the discussion with Prime Minister Maliki's government on a strategic framework agreement. This agreement will serve as the foundation for America's presence in Iraq once the U.N. resolution authorizing the multinational forces expires on Dec. 31," the president said. "We remain a nation at war. Al-Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, but the terrorists remain dangerous and they are determined to strike our country and our allies again."

The White House is hoping that negotiations for a withdrawal agreement with the Iraqi government will be completed by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the continued American military presence in Iraq has turned into a key issue in the presidential campaign. The presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain has frequently accused rival Barack Obama of planning -- what could be a reckless withdrawal from the war-torn country. Obama has argued that the United States should never have invaded the country to begin with.

Sources: The Associated Press, ABC News

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