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February 22, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Summer troop cuts possible

By Matthew Lee The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Bush will tell the nation tomorrow evening that he plans to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq by as many as 30,000 by next summer but will condition those and further cuts on continued progress, The Associated Press has learned.

In a 15-minute address from the White House at 9 p.m. EDT, Bush will endorse the recommendations of his top general and top diplomat in Iraq, following their appearance at two days of hearings in Congress, administration officials said. The White House plans to issue a written status report on the troop buildup on Friday, they said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Bush’s speech is not yet final. Bush was rehearsing and polishing his remarks even as the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker were presenting their arguments for a second day on Capitol Hill.

In the speech, the president will say he understands Americans’ deep concerns about U.S. involvement in Iraq and their desire to bring the troops home, they said. Bush will say that, after hearing from Petraeus and Crocker, he has decided on a way forward that will reduce the U.S. military presence but not abandon Iraq to chaos, according to the officials.

The address will stake out a conciliatory tone toward Congress. But while mirroring Petraeus’ strategy, Bush will place more conditions on reductions than his general did, insisting that conditions on the ground must warrant cuts and that now-unforeseen events could change the plan.

Petraeus recommended that a 2,000-member Marine unit return home this month without replacement. That would be followed in mid-December with the departure of an Army brigade numbering 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers. Under the general’s plan, another four combat brigades would be withdrawn by July 2008.

That could leave the U.S. with as few as 130,000-135,000 troops in Iraq, down from about 168,000 now, although Petraeus was not precise about whether all the about 8,000 support troops sent with those extra combat forces would be withdrawn by July.

Petraeus said he foresaw even deeper troop cuts beyond July, but he recommended that Bush wait until at least March to decide when to go below 130,000 – and at what pace.

At the White House, Bush met with House and Senate lawmakers of both parties and he publicly pledged to consider their views. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the president didn’t talk about the nationwide address.

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