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Success in Iraq Must Be Sustained, Bush Says

By Sgt. Sara Moore, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2008 – Victory in Iraq is an important priority for protecting the United States, President Bush said today in urging Congress to act quickly and fully fund war on terror operations.

Despite security improvements in Iraq, opponents of the war are still calling for the withdrawal of troops, Bush said at a White House news conference. He acknowledged that things were going badly in Iraq a year ago, but said that since the troop surge began, high-profile terrorist attacks, civilian deaths, sectarian killings and coalition casualties are down.

“U.S. and Iraqi forces have captured or killed thousands of extremists, including hundreds of key al Qaeda operatives and leaders,” Bush said. “Reconciliation is taking place in local communities across the country. That reconciliation is beginning to translate into political progress in the capital city.”

Bush said he wants to leave a sustainable Iraq policy to the next administration, including adequate U.S. troop levels, a security agreement with the Iraqi government, and noticeable political progress. Early withdrawal from Iraq would put at risk the gains troops have made over the past year, he said, and he urged Congress to approve funds for the war on terror without any withdrawal timetables or limits to commanders in the field.

“What they need to do is stand by our brave men and women in uniform and fully fund the troops,” Bush said of Congress.

Bush also addressed recent Turkish military operations in northern Iraq. He noted that the PKK, a militant Kurdish nationalist group that operates in northern Iraq and Turkey, is a common enemy of Turkey, Iraq and the United States, and “it’s in nobody’s interest that there be safe haven for people who … have the willingness to kill innocent people.”

Bush said he agrees with recent comments of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who said that Turkish operations should conclude as soon as possible.

“The Turks need to move, move quickly, achieve their objective and get out,” Bush said.

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