Bush Bullish on Progress in Iraq

With security improving in Iraq, President Bush predicted victory today, but some of his senior leaders were more cautious about the prospects.

Bush told crowds of cheering troops at Camp Arfijan, Kuwait exactly what they wanted to hear.

"There is no doubt in my mind when history is written, the final page will say, 'Victory was achieved by the United States of America for the good of the world,'" he told the troops.

The remarks came after an hour-long meeting with his national security team, the top commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.

"The president has had and maintained a vision for Iraq which has brought us to where we are today, which is an immeasurably better place then we were a year ago when he announced a new strategy," Crocker said.

ABC News Senior Correspondent Martha Raddatz spoke to Petraeus and Crocker about their views on whether progress is being made shortly after they spoke to the president and asked about prospects for further drawdowns.

"We have begun looking at alternative futures beyond July to see what could the timing and pace of possible future [troop] reductions be," Petraeus said.

After speaking to the troops at Camp Arifjan, Bush told reporters it is "fine with me" if generals recommend no more cuts than those planned to drop the force level to about 130,000.

He said he will rely on Petraeus and Crocker, who are scheduled to update Congress on the situation in Iraq in March, to make a recommendation about troop levels "based upon success."

"My attitude is, if [Petraeus] didn't want to continue the drawdown, that's fine with me, in order to make sure we succeed, see," Bush told reporters. "I said to the general, 'If you want to slow her down, fine. It's up to you.'"

After a report from Petraeus and Crocker in September, Bush announced he would withdraw some troops from Iraq by July -- essentially the 30,000 sent as part of the "surge" ordered a year ago -- but still keep the U.S. level there at about 130,000.

"The only thing I can tell you we're on track for is, we're doing what we said was going to happen," the president said.

While Petraeus said he's looking forward, he's also concerned about a sharp increase seen recently in the number of Iranian-made armor-piercing roadside bombs. The devices, known as explosively formed projectiles or EFPs, are an extremely lethal weapon that has killed hundreds of U.S. troops.

Crocker's concerns are focused on progress the Iraqis are making, or not making, on the political front. He echoed the president's praise today for the decision of the Iraqi parliament to reinstate thousands of former supporters of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to government jobs.

"If people are going to think they have a future in a new Iraq, having a job is critical to that," he said.

Raddatz asked the general and the ambassador if they were as confident as the president that victory would come some day.

"We talk about progress. Look, I mean, the ambassador and I are at this point in time -- we refuse to use words like optimist or pessimist or realistic ... or victory, or defeat or anything else. We are into trying to achieve progress," Petraeus said.

After the meeting with the president, Petraeus and Croker immediately headed back to Baghdad, where a major operation is underway to root out Al Qaeda.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...