Bush says US troop build-up in Iraq has brought 'hope'

Saturday, January 12, 2008

US President George W. Bush says the so-called "surge" strategy in Iraq is working.

The President was speaking in Kuwait during one of several stops on a tour of the Middle East to build support for his administration's efforts to stabilize Iraq and to contain Iran's growing influence in the region.

President Bush said the United States' change of strategy in Iraq has sharply reduced violence there and should allow the military to withdraw 20,000 troops on schedule by July this year.

George Bush in Kuwait on Friday

After meeting with his top military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, Mr.Bush told reporters that hope is returning to Baghdad.

The president said he has made no decision on withdrawing more troops from Iraq. He said that will depend on recommendations by General Petraeus, who is due to report to Congress on that issue in March. A day earlier, the president told the NBC television network that U.S. troops could remain in Iraq for at least a decade.

Mr. Bush also called on Syria to cut what he called "the flow of terrorists" into Iraq. He accused Iran of supporting militias and extremist groups in Iraq, and urged it to stop.

Later, the president addressed a crowd of some 1,500 American troops at a U.S. military base in Kuwait.

"The history will say, it was when you were called upon, you served, and the service you rendered was absolutely necessary to defeat an enemy overseas so we do not have to face them here at home," he said.

Mr.Bush said the troops were part of what he called "an ideological struggle" against "cold-blooded murderers" with a "hateful vision of a future."

In his speech Bush said "Iraq is now a different place from one year ago," and that "we [Americans] must do all we can to ensure that 2008 will bring even greater progress"

He said the best way to defeat an ideology of hate is with an ideology of hope, based on liberty.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we will succeed," he said. "There is no doubt in my mind when history was written, the final page will say: Victory was achieved by the United States of America for the good of the world; that by doing the hard work now, we can look back and say, the United States of America is more secure, and generations of Americans will be able to live in peace."

Kuwait is the most pro-U.S. country in the Arab world, but even so there is deep anxiety there about some U.S. policies in the Middle East. With a large Shi'ite population and a large U.S. troop presence, Kuwait is worried about the possibility of a U.S. military strike on Iran. The emirate has said it will not allow its territory to be used in such an attack. It is also concerned about a spillover of violence from neighboring Iraq.

After Kuwait, the president continues on to Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. He will later visit the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt before returning to Washington next week.