Bush: As Iraqis Stand Up, U.S. Will Stand Down
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2005 "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down," President Bush told reporters following a meeting today with his national security team in Crawford, Texas.
The president met with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers. He said the Iraqi push to write a constitution is on track for release Aug. 15.
Bush said the constitution is a critical step for Iraq. "Iraqis are taking control of their country," he said. "They are building a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself."
The process calls for Iraqis to hold a referendum on the constitution by Oct. 15. If approved, elections for a permanent government are called for "no later than" Dec. 15.
Bush said the mission is a tough one because the enemy understands the stakes. "A free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will deliver a serious blow to their hateful ideology," he said.
The president reminded Americans that the United States is at war. He said the strategy is to defeat terrorists overseas before they can launch attacks in America. The second part of the strategy is to counter the appeal of the philosophy of violent extremism.
Bush said the enemy is determined to do more harm. "They kill because they are trying to shake our will," he said. "They're trying to drive free nations out of parts of the world so they can topple governments throughout the Middle East and establish Taliban-like regimes in the Middle East and turn that region into a launching pad for attacks against free people. And they will fail."
The president praised the men and women of the armed forces. He said members of the armed forces and their families have taken on a heavy burden. Bush said the national security team discussed ways to lessen that burden. He said DoD is working to rebalance the forces. About 80,000 servicemembers are moving out of skills in low demand to the skills in high demand.
DoD has also improved the call-up process for reserve components. "We've provided earlier notifications, more certainty of the length of their service tours and minimized the number of extensions and repeat mobilizations," the president said. "We are working hard to ensure our troops and families are treated with the dignity they deserve and the respect they have earned."
Bush said no decision has been made on the number of troops in Iraq. "I know there's a lot of speculation and rumors about that," he said. "We did ... increase troops for the Iraqi election and for the Afghanistan elections. It seemed to have helped create security. And I know the secretary of defense is analyzing that possibility."
The president said many Americans want to pull the troops out of Iraq no matter the consequences. "I've thought about their cries and their sincere desire to reduce the loss of life by pulling our troops out," he said. "I just strongly disagree.
"Pulling the troops out would send a terrible signal to the enemy. Immediate withdrawal would say to the ... terrorists of the world and the bombers who take innocent life around the world (that) the United States is weak and all we've got to do is intimidate and they'll leave."
He said pulling troops out without adequately training the Iraqi security forces would betray the Iraqis. "That's a country where 8.5 million Iraqis went to the polls," Bush noted. "They've said, 'We want to be free.' And our mission is to help them have a military that's capable of defeating those who would like to dash their ambitions to be free. Withdrawing before the mission is complete would send a signal to those who wonder about the United States' commitment to spreading freedom."