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Good Progress in Iraq, But More Work to be Done, Bush Says

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2003 – One hundred days after major combat ended, the United States and coalition partners are making "good progress" in Iraq, President Bush said. But, he acknowledged, "We've got a lot more work to do."

Accompanied by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a press conference at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, the president cited improvements in security, democratic processes and the economy as signs of progress in Iraq. In many cases, he said, infrastructure is up to pre-war conditions, which he called "satisfactory" but not "the ultimate aim."

"The ultimate aim is for the infrastructure to be the best in the region," he said.

In response to a reporter's question about continuing deaths among American troops in Iraq, Bush said the United States is "a country that grieves with those who sacrifice."

He offered "heartfelt sympathies and appreciation to the loved ones of any soldier who's willing to defend the security of the United States." Bush then noted that the fighting in Iraq remains part of the broader war on terrorism.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, taught Americans that "our nation is vulnerable to attack," Bush said and stressed, as he has often in the past, that the best defense is a strong offense. "The best way to secure America is to get the enemy before they get us," he said.

The president pledged to not forget the lessons of Sept. 11. "I made a pledge to the American people and the (victims') families and those who grieved that we will hunt down the terrorists wherever they are and bring them to justice," Bush said. "And that's what we're going to do."

During meetings before the press conference, Bush and Rumsfeld discussed the situation in Iraq and military transformation.

"We spent time making sure that our military is configured in such a way as to represent the modern era, which means it will be more likely that the world will be peaceful," Bush said. "A modern, strong, light, active military will make it easier to keep the peace."

Force size is a common area of debate when discussing tomorrow's military. Rumsfeld noted there are about "two dozen things we can do that reduce stress on the force" without raising the number of servicemen and women.

The secretary explained there is a "significant lag" between when additional forces might be needed and when they can be recruited, trained and equipped so it makes more sense to look into other ways to reduce stress on current troops.

However, adding more forces in the future isn't entirely out of the question. "To the extent at any point it looks as though an end-strength increase is appropriate, we, obviously, would recommend it," Rumsfeld said. "But we certainly don't see the evidence of that at the present time."

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