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Iraq Transition

Bush stresses change in Iraq policy speech

Story Highlights

Bush tells Iraqis that U.S. commitment has its limits
• President says responsibility for Iraq mistakes is his
• Additional 20,000-plus U.S. troops will work alongside Iraqis
• Iraqi government to spend $10 billion on infrastructure projects, Bush says
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush called for major changes in U.S. strategy in Iraq Wednesday night, saying, "The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people, and it is unacceptable to me."

"Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me," Bush said, before outlining his proposed changes and explaining why he believes they will work when previous strategies have failed.

Speaking from the White House as about 50 protesters gathered outside, Bush said he will increase American forces by more than 20,000, the vast majority of them coming from "five brigades [that] will be deployed to Baghdad."

The additional U.S. troops will work alongside Iraqi units and "will have a well-defined mission," he said. (Read the speech)

Bush said he would send an additional 4,000 troops to Anbar province, where, he said, "local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda."

"Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents, and there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have," Bush said.

He said U.S. military commanders assured him that the new plan addressed the mistakes of the past.

Bush said increased numbers of U.S. and Iraqi forces would allow them to keep areas secure after they have been cleared of insurgents. (Watch Bush talk about U.S. troop increase Video)

And he said Iraqi and American troops will have "a green light" to enter "neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence," without interference.

He said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki "has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated."

"I have made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended," Bush said. "If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people. And it will lose the support of the Iraqi people."

Bush said his new strategy came after consultation with his advisers, members of Congress, and allies, and consideration of the recommendations made by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

After the speech, Democrats said the plan took U.S. commitment in Iraq in the wrong direction, and was not what Americans wanted.

Most Republicans reacted with cautious support, but some crossed party lines to oppose the plan. (Full story)

Bush emphasized that what happens in Iraq will reverberate throughout the Middle East, but took a hard line on dealing with Iran and Syria.

"These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq," he said.

"Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces, Bush said. "We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

The Iraq Study Group report, released last month, called for engaging Iran and Syria in diplomatic efforts to end the war. (Read other Iraq Study Group recommendations)

"We will use America's full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East," Bush said, announcing that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will leave for the region on Friday to build support for the new plan.

Bush said only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence that has besieged their country and he said that the Iraqi government "has put forward an aggressive plan" to accomplish that. (Watch Bush explain what the Iraqi military will do Video)

The Iraqi government will spend $10 billion "of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects" to spur job growth, Bush said.

And Iraq will hold provincial elections later this year.

"Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue," Bush warned. "And we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties."

But he said the new strategy would bring the U.S. "closer to success," and defined what that would mean.

"Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship," he said. "But victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world: a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people."

Linking the fight in Iraq with the greater war on terror, Bush told the nation there is "no magic formula for success in Iraq" but that failure there "would be a disaster for the United States."

The additional U.S. troops will be sent to Iraq in phases, officials said. The first deployments would begin by the end of January, a U.S. official said.

To accomplish the plan, the normal tours of duty for soldiers and Marines will be extended, the officials said. Marines who usually spend seven months in Iraq will be there three or four months longer; soldiers who normally serve for a year will be there up to four months longer.

To sustain the increase, the Pentagon is expected to have to activate more National Guard and Reserve units, according to the officials.

The plan, which U.S. officials said the Iraqis helped prepare, would add billions of dollars to the cost of the war.


President Bush said that a "step back" from Iraq would only cause its government to collapse.


Pentagon sources say additional troops will come from these brigades:

•A division of the 82nd Airborne, Fort Bragg, North Carolina

•4th Brigade in Fort Riley, Kansas

•Brigades from Fort Lewis in Washington

•Fort Stewart and Fort Benning in Georgia


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


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