WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush said Dec. 20 he believes more troops may be needed to fight the war against terrorists.
He is listening to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, military commanders and others before deciding whether the United States military presence in Iraq needs to be increased, the president told reporters at an end-of-the-year news conference.
“I am inclined to believe that we need to increase the permanent size of both the United States Army and the United States Marines,” Bush said. “I’ve asked Secretary Gates to determine how such an increase could take place and report back to me as quickly as possible.
“[I] haven’t made up my mind yet about more troops [in Iraq},” he said. “I will tell you we’re looking at all options. And one of those options, of course, is … more troops. But, in order to do so, there must be a specific mission that can be accomplished with more troops. And that’s precisely what our commanders have said, as well as people who know a lot about military operations.”
Bush’s comments came one day after he told reporters for The Washington Post the U.S. is not winning the war in Iraq -– the first time he has made such an assessment since the U.S. and its allies invaded the country nearly four years ago. “We’re not winning, we’re not losing,” he said.
In the nationally televised news conference, the president clarified his comments by saying, “I believe that we’re going to win. I believe that — and, by the way, if I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t have our troops there. That’s what you’ve got to know. We’re going to succeed.
“My comments yesterday reflected the fact that we’re not succeeding nearly as fast as I wanted … and that the conditions are tough in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad.”
Bush acknowledged 2006 had been “a difficult year for our troops and the Iraqi people. We began the year with optimism after watching nearly 12 million Iraqis go to the polls to vote for a unity government and free future. The enemies of liberty responded fiercely to this advance of freedom. They carried out a deliberate strategy to foment sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shia [Muslims]. And over the course of the year they had success. Their success hurt our efforts to help the Iraqis rebuild their country; it set back reconciliation; it kept Iraq’s unity government and our coalition from establishing security and stability throughout the country.”
Prevailing in Iraq is not only critical for Iraqis and others in the Middle East but also Americans, Bush said again.
“Success is essential for securing the future of our peace for our children and grandchildren,” he said. “And securing the peace for future generations will require a sustained commitment from the American people and our military. We have an obligation to assure the military is capable of sustaining this war for the long haul and performing the many tasks that we ask of them.
“Failure in the Middle East, for example, or failure in Iraq or isolationism will condemn a generation of young Americans to permanent threat from overseas.
“[I] want the enemy to understand that this is a tough task, but they can’t run us out of the Middle East; that they can’t intimidate America,” the president said. “They think they can. They think it’s just a matter of time before America grows weary and leaves, abandons the people of Iraq, for example.
“And that’s not going to happen.”
In response to a question, he said “the most painful aspect of the presidency is the fact that I know my decisions have caused young men and women to lose their lives.”
Bush also admitted to the same reporter he had questioned whether invading Iraq was the correct decision and had concluded it was. He said, “[I]t’s the right decision for America to stay engaged and to take the lead and to deal with these radicals and extremists and to help support young democracies.”
The president also said his administration would work with the newly Democratic-controlled Congress on Iraq and other issues, including the minimum wage, energy and immigration reform”
He endorsed a proposed $2.10 increase in the minimum wage over a two-year period but coupled it with tax and regulatory breaks that aid small businesses. The federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour.
The president said the country must reduce its reliance upon oil from overseas and increase its research into alternative energy sources.
Bush also called on Congress to pass an immigration reform bill in 2007 that both secures America’s borders while dealing humanely with illegal immigrants.
Compiled by Tom Strode.