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Iraq Troop Withdrawal Would Be 'Huge Mistake,' Bush Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2005 – The U.S. commander in chief today dismissed talk of any major withdrawal of American troops from Iraq before victory over insurgents there is achieved.

"We've heard some people say pull them out right now. That's a huge mistake. It'd be a terrible mistake," President Bush told reporters during a visit to U.S. Border Patrol headquarters in El Paso, Texas.

Bush said a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq would damage military morale, encourage the enemy, and send a bad message to the Iraqis. "And I want our troops to come home, but I don't want them to come home without having achieved victory," Bush said, noting there's a strategy for victory.

The president said he'd base his decisions about U.S. force levels in Iraq according to recommendations from commanders on the ground.

"If they tell me we need more troops, we'll provide more troops," Bush said. "If they tell me we've got sufficient level of troops, that will be the level of troops."

Bush also said that if U.S. commanders tell him that Iraqi forces are capable of taking on more responsibility to fight the insurgency and that some American troops could therefore come home, then he'd do that.

It's imperative to defeat insurgents operating in Iraq, because they want to make that country into a safe haven, Bush said.

"And a victory in Iraq will deny the terrorists their stated goal," Bush said.

Bush acknowledged that fighting terrorists in Iraq has come with a price. But he vowed that U.S. servicemembers' sacrifices haven't been made in vain.

"We will achieve our objective, which is a stable Iraq, an ally in the war on terror, and we will deny the terrorists safe haven in Iraq," Bush declared.

Iraqis are getting ready for a Dec. 15 nationwide vote to select a 275-member Council of Representatives that will pick Iraq's president and two deputy presidents.

Bush said Iraq's emerging democracy will provide an example of enlightened governance that will resonate across the Middle East.

"And as democracy takes hold in the broader Middle East, we can say we have done our duty and laid the foundation of peace for generations to come," Bush said.

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