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Bush says fewer troops needed to maintain Iraq security

by Staff Writers
Al-Asad Air Base, Iraq (AFP) Sept 3, 2007
US President George W. Bush said during a surprise visit to Iraq on Monday that security could be maintained with fewer US troops if a turnaround in the restive province of Anbar continues.

Bush made the remarks after a meeting of his "war council" with Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and other senior Iraqi leaders just days before General David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker report to Congress on the US surge strategy.

"General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it is possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces," he said.

But did not say how deeply or how quickly US forces can be cut, key questions that have been at the heart of an intensifying debate in the United States over the four-year-old war.

Bush flew in on Air Force One to the dusty air base of Al-Asad in the desert west of Baghdad, in a region torn by a Sunni insurgency that in recent months has abruptly turned in Washington's favour.

The president, who was joined in Iraq by his top national security advisers, was meeting with tribal sheikhs who have shifted allegiances against Al-Qaeda, blamed for most of the violence in the country since the March 2003 invasion.

Bush's visit, only his third to Iraq since the invasion, was aimed at highlighting progress in the violence-wracked country ahead of a White House report to Congress due by September 15.

Bush said the success in Anbar must be followed by the Maliki government, which has come under attack from some quarters in the United States over the failure to restore security.

"I urge members of Congress to listen to what (Petraeus and Crocker) have to say," Bush said.

related report
Bush in Iraq snipes at 'nervous' US lawmakers
Al-Asad Air Base, Iraq (AFP) Sept 3 - US President George W. Bush, on a surprise visit to Iraq Monday, said he would rely on his commanders to appraise troop levels and not on "nervous politicians" back in Washington.

Addressing cheering Marines at this base in Anbar province, Bush rejected intensifying pressure from the Democratic-led Congress to start pulling troops immediately out of the unpopular war in Iraq.

"Those decisions will be based on a calm assessment by our military commanders on the conditions on the ground, not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results in the media," the president said.

"In other words, when we begin to draw down troops from Iraq, it will be from a position of strength and success, not from the position of fear and failure," Bush said.

The president reiterated his controversial stand that the war in Iraq is a life-or-death struggle against Al-Qaeda extremists.

"If we don't want to hear their footsteps back home, we have to keep them on their heels over here," he said.

Earlier Monday, Bush said that security in Iraq could be maintained with fewer US troops if a turnaround in long-restive Anbar continues.

Bush made the remarks after a meeting of his "war council" with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other senior Iraqi leaders just days before General David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker report to Congress on the US surge strategy.

related report
Serbia, Iraq to resume military cooperation
Belgrade (AFP) Sept 3 - Serbia and Iraq agreed Monday to resume military cooperation, as the first top Iraqi official visited Belgrade since the end of dictatorial regimes in the two countries.

Serbia's Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac and his Iraqi counterpart Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi signed a letter of intent to resume cooperation, a statement from the Serbian defence ministry said.

During the decades-long dictatorship of Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Baghdad had closely cooperated with Belgrade. Yugoslavia was ruled by communist dictator Josip Broz Tito and his successor in Serbia, late president Slobodan Milosevic.

After Milosevic's fall Serbia was suspected of having supplied Saddam's army with weaponry during the UN arms embargo, a charge Belgrade has persistently denied.

The cooperation ended after Milosevic was ousted in a popular uprising in October 2000. He died last year in his cell in the Hague, where he had been tried by a UN war crimes court for his role in the 1990s Balkans wars.

Saddam was finally toppled when US-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 and executed last year for crimes against humanity.

Source: Agence France-Presse
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British troops begin pull-out from Basra HQ: BBC
London (AFP) Sept 2, 2007
British troops have begun pulling out from their headquarters in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, the BBC reported on Sunday, citing the Iraqi head of security in the province.

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