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War on Terror at Center of Bush Priorities

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2004 – President Bush painted the broad outlines of his agenda for a second term, but anchoring the painting is winning the war on terror.

Bush spoke at a press conference at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building today. He told reporters that America will remain strong and resolute against the terrorists. "We have a duty, a solemn duty to protect the American people, and we will," he said.

The president addressed the issue of security for January's elections in Iraq and the need for more U.S. troops in the country. He said the United States is making good progress in training the Iraqi troops. "There will be 125,000 of them trained by election time," he said.

He has not yet sat down with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and discussed troop levels. "I read some reports during the course of the campaign where some were speculating in the press corps about the number of troops needed to protect elections," he said. "That has not been brought to my attention yet. And so I would caution you that what you have either read about or reported was pure speculation thus far."

Bush said the January elections are important, and the United States will respond "to the requests of our commanders on the ground. And I have yet to hear from our commanders on the ground that they need more troops."

The president said he will work with friends and allies around the world against the terrorist threat. "Every civilized country also has a stake in the outcome of this war," he said. "Whatever our past disagreements, we share a common enemy, and we have common duties to protect our peoples, to confront disease and hunger and poverty in troubled regions of the world."

He said he will work with all "to encourage freedom and democracy as alternatives to tyranny and terror."

The president called for final congressional action on the intelligence reform bill. House and Senate conferees failed to reach agreement on the specifics of the bill before the elections.

"Our government also needs the very best intelligence, especially in a time of war," he said. "So I urge the Congress to pass an effective intelligence reform bill that I can sign into law."

The president said the United States will work with the Iraqi interim government to hold elections in January. "We're on the path to stability, and we'll continue to train the (Iraqi) troops," he said. "Our commanders will have that which they need to complete their missions."

The president said he will ask the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department to work together to bring "a realistic assessment" of what the cost of the war in Iraq will be.

Bush said he will continue to push for free, democratic governments in the Muslim world. "There is a certain attitude in the world by some that says that, it's a waste of time to try to promote free societies in parts of the world," he said. "I fully understand that that might rankle some and be viewed by some as folly. I just strongly disagree with those who do not see the wisdom of trying to promote free societies around the world.

"If we are interested in protecting our country for the long term, the best way to do so is to promote freedom and democracy," he continued. "I simply do not agree with those who either say overtly or believe that certain societies cannot be free. It's just not a part of my thinking."

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