ABC News' Martha Raddatz, who is back in Iraq for her fourteenth reporting trip since the start of the war, interviewed President George Bush today after his surprise visit to the country.
Below is an excerpted transcript of their conversation, portions of which aired on "World News with Charles Gibson" Monday evening.
Raddatz: Mr. President, judging from what I heard you say, talking to Secretary Gates and Condoleezza Rice, it sounds like you need the surge to continue for a while?
Bush: That's going to be up to the recommendations of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. No question that the reinforcements and the surge have made a difference and we are standing in a province where it has made a significant difference. And so I'm looking forward to what they have to say as to how to continue security and at the same time enhance the reconciliation process.
Raddatz: General Petraeus -- we talked to this morning and he said he's given you his recommendation already this morning.
Bush: Well I'm not going to give it to you now, I'm going to wait for General Petraeus to come and speak to the country. I wanted to make sure that that which he had shared with me before was something that he genuinely believed. It's important for me to sit with our commanders face to face. And I was able to do so. And I must tell you that I was impressed by the quality of people we have here, whether they be the private or the general.
Raddatz: What was it like for you? You have not seen so many people here, you haven't been to an area like this before, just your impressions.
Bush: First of all it's pretty stark out here and it's hot. Kind of reminds me in terms of the temperature what West Texas was like when I was growing up. Secondly, I met with some local Sheiks, people who basically had declared that they were sick and tired of al Qaeda and helped turned the tide here against these extremists and murderers. It was interesting talking to these people who were on the front, really what you would call the front lines of liberty, but the thing that most impressed me was our troops. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the, because these people have volunteered. And morale is high. Look, people want to go home. Everybody wants, everybody misses their family. But you ask them whether they've accomplished the mission, the answer is yeah and you ask them how they are feeling, they say we're in this fight. And I am very grateful.
Raddatz: How do you think this translates into other areas of Iraq? This is a largely Sunni area, it doesn't really show reconciliation, which is eventually what you have to have.
Bush: Well there are many mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad, where Sunni and Shia live together. Some of these tribes out here by they way happen to have Shia components to them, too. Not necessarily here in Anbar, but there's a long history of people living together in Iraq, so I am…confident the reconciliation will occur. So long as we help the Iraqis provide the security necessary for the political process to move forward. There are killers in this country, some of whom would like to attack America, others have different ambitions, but nevertheless, both want to stop the advance of democracy. And should we leave before the job is done, they would be emboldened, which could cause this chaos and anarchy to spill out into a very vital part of the region which would eventually come home to America. So the stakes are extremely high. I've come to Anbar for a couple of reasons, one thank the troops on Labor Day. But also to come to a place where there's arguably, you know success.
Raddatz: How about Prime Minister Maliki? What was your impression of Prime Minister Maliki today? It was almost a year ago today when we were in Amman, Jordan, and you said he's the right guy.
Bush: I still feel like he's the right guy. I recognize that ... first of all, it's not my decision to make. It's the decision of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi parliament. But I'm watching a man deal in very difficult circumstances with a nation who's trying to recover from the brutality of a dictator. Step one is, he shares our goal, which is a government that can sustain and govern itself and serve as an ally against extremists and murderers. He was also there with the rest of the presidency council and so I was watching them interface and interact, determining whether or not they had the will necessary to move the process forward. And I have come to the conclusion that they do.
Raddatz: At what point did you decide to make this trip?
Bush: I think we made it, well I knew I was coming to Australia. I felt like it would be important to come by Iraq, back through Iraq again. So I'd say maybe a couple of weeks ago, a couple of months ago, I guess. You'll be happy to hear I'm not the scheduler.
Raddatz: And you're not worried about Congress? And what they'll do?
Bush: I'd be worried about the security of the country if congress tries to pull our troops out of here before the job is done. What I would like people to do is listen to General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker's report.