ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson Report: In a primetime, nationally televised address on Thursday, President Bush will announce that 2,200 Marines are coming home immediately and will not be replaced. Another unit will follow, for a total of 5,700 U.S. troops out of Iraq by Christmas who will not be replaced.
Believing that the U.S. has had enough success strategically in Iraq to continue on the current course, the President’s plan is to withdraw five brigades by mid-July — approximately 20,000 troops, leaving as many as 140,000 U.S. troops in place by next summer.
During a lunch with network anchors Thursday, the President explained his Iraq strategy as part of a larger policy in the Middle East.
He explained that the Iraqi government has said they want U.S. troops in Iraq on a long-term basis.
Bush made clear that the U.S. will have an enduring presence in Iraq, that will go beyond his presidency, but he does not necessarily envision permanent U.S. bases in that country.
While Bush will characterize the redeployment as a troop withdrawal, there will actually be close to 10,000 more troops in Iraq next summer than there were before Bush deployed additional forces to Iraq in January as part of a troop surge plan aimed at quelling sectarian violence.
In his over 17-minute address, President Bush is also expected to suggest any troop redeployment will be heavily conditioned on stability in Iraq — far from the rapid withdrawal of troops advocated by Democratic leaders in Congress.
ABC News’ Martha Raddatz and Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.