The President acknowledged that mistakes had been made in earlier military operations in Iraq due to a lack of sufficient U.S. or Iraqi troops. He also stated that some of the "rules of engagement" under which U.S. troops had previously been ordered to conduct the war had been restricted by politics in Baghdad. "Where mistakes have been made, the blame belongs with me," said President Bush.
"Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does," said President Bush. "They also report that this plan can work." In addition, the President noted that Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki "has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated."
While cautioning that he was not setting a definite timetable, the President attempted to make it clear that the U.S. military commitment to Iraq was not open-ended. Bush called for security in all 18 Iraqi provinces to be turned over to Iraqi forces by November of this year. Iraqis currently control security in only three provinces.
The 20,000 additional troops will join about 135,000 already in Iraq. Most of the new troops will be deployed to Baghdad, with about 4,000 being sent to the Anbar province, considered the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgency and the home of al Qaeda in Iraq, according to the President.
Coupled with the troop buildup, estimated by the White House to cost about $5.6 billion, President Bush announced almost $1.2 billion in new economic aid for Iraq, in addition to the more than $30 billion already committed to the country. The new funds will be directed towards job programs for Iraqis and rebuilding country’s infrastructure. The Iraqi government will contribute $10 billion of its own toward these efforts, according to President Bush.
Bush’s announcement tonight comes one month after the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended that the U.S. begin a measured withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and that "The United States must not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq."
The President stated that he had rejected the idea of withdrawing troops at this time, because doing so "would force a collapse of the Iraqi government," and that, "Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal."
Should the U.S. "step back" or fail in its mission in Iraq, "Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits."
Breaking with another recommendation of the Iraq Study Group -- that the U.S. work with Iran and Syria to reduce the level of violence in Iraq -- President Bush rejected talks with Iran and Syria, referring to both countries as "unhelpful influences" in Iraq. "These two countries are allowing terrorists to move in and out of their countries," he said.
On a wider diplomatic front, President Bush vowed that the U.S. government would work to win support for Iraq from all nations in the Middle East.
Bush's Speech: Iraq as Fatal Battleground for Terrorism Vs. Freedom (Terrorism)
Bush Speech : First Thoughts (U.S. Politics)
Iraq Study Group Issues Report
2002: Congress Authorizes Military Force in Iraq
Latest Iraq War Results & Statistics (U.S. Liberals)
Bush Wants $100 Billion More for Iraq War (U.S. Liberals)