Bush vows troops surge to Iraq hot spots to fix ‘mis­take’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Joseph Curl and Stephen Di­nan

Pres­i­dent Bush on Jan. 10 con­ced­edthath­e­madeamis­take­by­fail­ing­toin­creasetroopsinIraqlastyear and­com­mit­ted­to­boost­ing­morethan 21,000troops,set­tin­gu­pa­bat­tle­with the con­gres­sional Democrats, who vowed to fight the new war strat­egy.

In re­ject­ing the Iraq Study Group’s call to with­draw most com­bat troops within 15 months, the pres­i­dent will push the U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence in Iraq to its high­est level in more than a year.

His plan, re­vealed in a prime­time ad­dress to the na­tion, came with no timetable, and se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said the so­called “surge” in troops has no set end.

But the pres­i­dent said the U.S. com­mit­ment to help Iraqis se­cure the­war-torn­na­tion­is­fi­nite.In­the20minute speech, the pres­i­dent de­mand­edswif­tac­tion­bythe­fledgling gov­ern­mentofIraqiPrimeMin­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki, who has re­fused to crack­downon­theShi’itemili­ti­as­re­spon­si­ble for the re­cent spike in sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence.

“I have made it clear to the prime min­is­ter and Iraq’s other lead­ers that Amer­ica’s com­mit­ment is not open-ended.IftheIraqigov­ern­ment does not fol­low through on its prom­ises, it will lose the sup­port of the Amer­i­can peo­ple — and it will lose the sup­port of the Iraqi peo­ple. Now is the time to act. The prime min­is­ter un­der­stands this,” he said.

The new strat­egy will in­crease U.S. troops in Iraq to about 153,500 atanex­tra­costof$5.6bil­lion­through the rest of this fis­cal year.

The first of five brigades will ar­rive by Jan. 15; the next, a month later, with the rest com­ing in monthly in­cre­ments. The bulk of the “new” troops will be sol­diers and Marines al­ready sched­uled to go to Iraq, but whose de­ploy­ments will be ex­tended.

Al­though he has pre­vi­ously ac­knowl­edged mak­ing mis­takes in Iraq, Mr. Bush said he was wrong both in his de­ci­sion-mak­ing and in his as­sump­tions.

“Where mis­takes have been made, the re­spon­si­bil­ity rests with me,” he said. “The sit­u­a­tion in Iraq isunac­cept­able­totheAmer­i­can­peo­ple — and it is un­ac­cept­able to me.”

But by push­ing for an es­ca­la­tion, Mr. Bush runs smack into Democrats, the new ma­jor­ity party in Congress,whosaytheyre­flec­tAmer­i­can vot­ers’ de­sire to be­gin bring­ing troops back home.

“This is the third time we are go­ing down this path. Two times this has not worked,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia. “Why are they do­ing this now? That ques­tion re­mains.”

The pres­i­dent called top Democrats and Repub­li­cans to the White House hours be­fore his speech to briefthem.The­late­hour­drews­corn from Democrats, who said that didn’t fit with Mr. Bush’s post­elec­tion prom­ise to con­sult them more.

“The pres­i­dent’s prac­tic­ing his speech right now,” said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat. “We had a con­ver­sa­tion to­daythathas­noim­pacton­whathe’s go­ing to say.”

Congress’ four top Democrats — Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Reid, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illi­nois and House Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Mary­land — is­sued a joint state­ment af­ter the speech,say­ingth­atthe­p­ro­posal“en­dan­gers our na­tional se­cu­rity by placin­gad­di­tion­al­bur­den­sonoural­ready overex­tended mil­i­tary” and dis­cour­ages the Iraqi gov­ern­ment from tak­ing “the nec­es­sary steps to achieve a po­lit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion to the sec­tar­ian prob­lems.”

SomeRepub­li­can­law­mak­ers­said theyal­soareskep­ti­calthata­surgein troops can achieve much.

“The gen­er­als who have served there do not be­lieve ad­di­tional troops alone will help,” said Sen Ge­orge V. Voinovich, Ohio Repub­li­can, who said he also lacks faith in Mr. al-Ma­liki “to make the hard choices nec­es­sary to bring about a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion.”

But Mr. Bush said that fight­ing in Iraq makes the United States safer andthathis­plan­will­bring­th­etroops home faster.

“Ifwein­creaseour­sup­por­t­atthis cru­cial mo­ment and help the Iraqis break the cur­rent cy­cle of vi­o­lence, we can has­ten the day our troops be­gin com­ing home,” he said.

Thep­res­i­dent­promis­ed­law­mak­ers that if they “have im­prove­ments that can be made, we will make them,” and took the sug­ges­tion of Sen.JoeLieber­man,Con­necti­cutin­de­pen­dent,to­for­manew­bi­par­ti­san work­ing group to im­prove re­la­tions be­tweent­head­min­is­tra­tio­nandCongress on the war on ter­ror.

But he also chal­lenged crit­ics to prove how their al­ter­na­tives would “be more likely to suc­ceed.”

The new strat­egy sets up a fierce con­flic­tonCapi­tolHill,onethat­could cre­ate a con­sti­tu­tional is­sue over pres­i­den­tial war pow­ers.

Some Democrats, led by Sen. Ed­wardM.Kennedy­ofMas­sachusetts, want to re­scind the res­o­lu­tion au­tho­riz­ing the pres­i­dent to use force inIraq.ButDemo­crat­i­clead­er­sprefera­less­bruis­ingstrat­egy,call­ing­for a non­bind­ing res­o­lu­tion that would sig­nal Congress’ op­po­si­tion to the surge in troops.

The pres­i­dent said that de­spite two pre­vi­ous shifts in strat­egy that failed, his new plan takes into ac­count­the­source­ofthe­vi­o­lence,and sets “bench­marks” for Iraqis to meet.

Iraqis will take the lead in bat­tling sec­tar­i­an­vi­o­lenceasAmer­i­cansstep back into a sup­port role, and the young gov­ern­ment will de­ploy three ad­di­tional Iraqi army brigades — up to 12,000 sol­diers — in and around Bagh­dad, where the ad­min­is­tra­tion says80per­centofthe­vi­o­lenceoc­curs.

“Only the Iraqis can end the sec­tar­i­an­vi­o­lence­and­se­curetheir­peo­ple. And their gov­ern­ment has put for­ward an ag­gres­sive plan to do it,” he said.

Aftern­ear­ly­fouryear­sofwar,the pres­i­dent re­de­fined what vic­tory in Iraq will look like.

“Vic­to­ry­will­not­look­liketheones our fa­thers and grand­fa­thers achieved.Therewil­l­beno­sur­ren­der cer­e­mony on the deck of a bat­tle­ship,” he said, al­lud­ing to the end of WorldWarII.“Ademo­crat­icIraqwill not be per­fect. But it will be a coun­try that fights ter­ror­ists in­stead of har­bor­ing them — and it will help bring a fu­ture of peace and se­cu­rity forourchil­drenand­grand­chil­dren.”

But he also was grim about the com­ing year in Iraq, which he pre­dicted would be “bloody and vi­o­lent” and bring “more Iraqi and Amer­i­can ca­su­al­ties.”

Sen. John McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can and a pro­po­nent of in­creas­ingU.S.forces,agreed­with­that fore­cast: “Is it go­ing to be a strain on the mil­i­tary? Ab­so­lutely. Ca­su­al­ties are go­ing to go up.”

The pres­i­dent’s speech also was un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­lye­quiv­o­cal­when he sought to as­sure Amer­i­cans that his plan will work.

“The­ques­tion­iswheth­er­ournew strat­egy will bring us closer to suc­cess. I be­lieve that it will,” he said.

As­so­ci­ated Press

‘Now is the time to act’: Pres­i­dent Bush, in a Jan. 10 prime-time ad­dress from the White House, said con­tin­ued U.S. com­mit­ment to Iraq de­pends on the gov­ern­ment’s will­ing­ness to crack down on the sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence that threat­ens the na­tion.

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