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Bush Discusses New Iraq Strategy During Fort Benning Visit

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2007 – President Bush visited Fort Benning, Ga., today to share thoughts on his new strategy for the war in Iraq with the soldiers there, but not before offering them his praise.

“Everywhere the warriors from this base serve, you leave your mark, and I believe it will be a legacy of hope and of freedom and peace,” he said.

Fort Benning is home to the U.S. Army Infantry School.

Bush acknowledged the situation in Iraq is difficult and much different than he’d anticipated it would be at this point. Failure, however, is not an option, he told the crowd.

“One of the wisest comments I’ve heard about this battle in Iraq was made by General John Abizaid,” he said. “He told me, ‘Mr. President, if we were to fail in Iraq, the enemy would follow us here to America.’

“If we were to leave before the job is done, if we were to fail in Iraq, Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, (and) our enemies would have safe havens from which to launch attacks,” he said. “That is why we must, and we will, succeed in Iraq.”

To ensure success, the president said he is committing more than 20,000 additional troops to the fight, including five brigades to Baghdad and 4,000 troops to Anbar province to help provide security in those areas. The numbers will help ensure that an area, once cleared of insurgents, can be held, he said.

But bigger numbers alone aren’t enough to succeed, he said. The troops need a clear mission, which they will have.

The plan also calls for the Iraqi government to appoint a military commander for Baghdad, he told the troops.

“The other thing that’s going to have to happen is that the government of Iraq must exhibit the will necessary to succeed. It’s one thing to develop a plan; it’s another thing to see it through,” he said. “I have made it clear that the patience of the American people is not unlimited, and now is the time to act, … not only for our sake; it’s time to act for the sake of people in Iraq.”

Bush said he was heartened by the Iraqi government’s pledge to spend $10 billion of its oil revenues for quality-of-life improvements it recognizes are just as important as security. Also encouraging, he said, was Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri-al Maliki's ultimatum to illegal armies to lay down their weapons or face justice.

That’s the kind of leadership that the Iraqi people expect, Bush said.

“We expect to see them fulfill the benchmarks that they laid out for their people,” he said. “We’re going to help them.”

As part of the new strategy, U.S. troops will work alongside Iraqi units to help them take the lead in securing their neighborhoods. They will ensure the Iraqi forces left behind to secure a cleared area will be capable of doing so, he said.

Bush cautioned the crowd that the new strategy won’t yield immediate results, however. “The American people have got to understand that suicide bombings won’t stop immediately,” he said. “Yet, over time, we can expect to see positive results. Daily life will improve, (and) the Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders.”

Bush acknowledged his new plan calls for some units to deploy earlier than scheduled, and some will have their deployments extended longer than originally anticipated. He promised, however, that he and Congress will provide all the resources the troops needed to win the war.

Victory will take patience, determination and sacrifice, the president said, but he expressed confidence the U.S. and its military will prevail against terrorism. “I know we’re going to face difficulties as we take on this important duty… and so do you,” he told the soldiers. “We have defied the pessimists and we will do so again in this first battle of the 21st century.”

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