Washington, Sep14: President Bush has announced plans to begin gradual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, but he largely ignored the opposition Democratic Party's demand for prompt deeper cuts.
Conditions in Iraq were improving as the strategy of putting more US forces in the country was working, said President Bush speaking from the Oval office. President Bush said he had accepted the recommendation of the Commander of the US forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus on troop levels.
Some 5,700 troops out of total 168,000 troops in Iraq will return home by the end of December. The number of combat brigades will drop from 20 to 15 by July, expressed the President agreeing with the view of General Petraeus. Mr Bush said he had directed General Petraeus and US Ambassador in Iraq Ryan Crocker to deliver another assessment of the situation in Iraq in March.
Mr Bush took note of the statements of Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus in Congress this week that while the challenge in Iraq is formidable, conditions are improving. ''The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home'', added the President.
''Recent official US assessments conclude the Iraqi army was becoming more capable but the Iraqi National Police still required a great deal of work'', said President Bush. He also called for an enduring relationship with Iraq that would keep American forces there beyond his presidency.A free and friendly Iraq was essential to the security of the region and of the United States, Mr Bush added.