Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bush commits 20,000 troops to Iraq

A worried looking President addresses the nation.

Coming two days after US planes struck Al Qaeda targets in Somalia, George Bush has made a speech to the nation. It was not just the nation that was watching. Many in Iraq were also watching as the President presented his new strategy for the war in Iraq. Prior to the President's first main address since Saddam’s hanging CNN’s Wolf Blitzer presented a special edition of the Situation Room. Emails from viewers suggested a general sense of dissatisfaction which has swelled against this President. Many feel he has not only failed in the war in Iraq, but also in the war on the environment, in industry with the loss of jobs and failures to control borders from drugs and illegal aliens. At 02:00 GMT the President addressed the world.

As he started his half hour address he stood rigidly at a rostrum, not seated unlike many other Presidential addresses. “The armed forces are involved in the war in terror,” he said as he opened. “When I addressed you over a year a go elections had just taken place” which Mr Bush said may have brought a better future for Iraq. “But the opposite happened,” he said, “Al-Qaeda terrorists saw the threat posed to their cause and made calculated efforts to attack … with death squads and sectarian violence.” This, he said, was “Unacceptable” and that “We need to change our strategy in Iraq.”
He acknowledged some of the findings in the recently released Iraq Study Group Report, particularly the much quoted line, “There is no magic formula”, but he said, “Failure is not an option”.
“On September 11th 2001 we saw what terrorists could do on the streets of our cities … and the violence in Baghdad is shaking the confidence of all Iraqis.” He then pointed to one reason why the US was failing. “There have been too many restrictions on our troops ", he said. He then went on to outline his new strategy in which “new Iraq forces” would be deployed throughout Baghdad. US forces would also be increased by 5 brigades in Baghdad alone. The total commitment to Iraq would number 20,000 troops “to help protect the population and create security.”
Another area in which the US strategy had failed was to not properly secure areas cleared of insurgents. “In earlier operations we cleared areas and left, only for the terrorists to return.” He said the renewed efforts “will be different, as areas cleared will be secured.”
“Now is the time to act …This new strategy will not immediately stop the suicide attacks and IED attacks” but the continued effort was “necessary”.
“Al-Qaeda has made al-Anbar province the most violent of all the provinces.” But, he said, “Our forces have killed and captured many terrorists…and I am increasing by 4000 the number of troops deployed in Al Anbar.”

Not all rested on force however. “The successful strategy goes beyond a military strategy.” He spoke of the Iraqi government “sharing oil revenues”, but with whom it was unclear. He said the US would “change its approach” and “accelerate the building of Iraqi forces and double reconstruction teams.”
President Bush said that Secretary Rice would oversee some of this and would be travelling to the region on Friday.
His wider concerns for the region were also aired. “We will interrupt support from Iran & Syria … and I have ordered a regional attack strike team to the region”. And there was a brief mention of the continued stand-off between Iran and the international community over their nuclear policy. “We will stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon,” he said.
As he neared the end of his address, President Bush emphasised the importance of the fight in the defence of freedom. “We stand in the defence of the ideology of democracy” he said. But he warned that the fight may still bring dangers for a time as “Deadly attacks will continue”. Even “Victory will not look like ones our fathers saw,” but, he said, “It will bring a democratic Iraq offering hope to the wider region”.
“If we help the Iraqis break the cycle of violence we hasten the day we can welcome our troops home.”

He ended with a series of punctuated sound-bites. “In these dangerous times, the advance of freedom is the calling of our time … we mourn the loss of every fallen American … but, we can and we will prevail. Thankyou and Goodnight.”

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