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Bush to announce withdrawal of troops, official says

  • Story Highlights
  • Administration official: Challenges remain, but progress is sufficient to cut troops
  • Petraeus has talked of 30,000-troop cut; Bush hasn't specified a number
  • Withdrawal of 30,000 troops would bring number of GIs in Iraq to about 130,000
  • President to make short address to nation on TV at 9:01 p.m. ET Thursday
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush is expected this week to announce his plans for cutting back U.S. troop numbers in Iraq, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

Gen. David Petraeus testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in the country, told Congress this week he could see troop numbers sliding by 30,000 -- which would reduce the number of troops to pre-surge levels -- by July 2008.

Administration officials did not specifically say the president would use the 30,000 figure -- but one said he would "make clear there are challenges ahead in Iraq, but also enough progress" to reduce troop levels.

The announcement could come when Bush addresses the nation on television Thursday at 9:01 p.m. ET. The address is expected to last 10 to 15 minutes. The White House on Tuesday requested air time for the remarks.

Bush ordered nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq in January -- a move known as "the surge" -- in an effort to pacify Baghdad and its surrounding provinces amid rampant sectarian and insurgent warfare.

Petraeus told Congress this week that the first of those units could be sent home in late September, with the rest returning home by mid-July 2008.

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Petraeus said the "surge" campaign has met its military goals of reducing sectarian killings by more than 50 percent nationwide and by more than 80 percent in Baghdad.

Petraeus commanded the Army's 101st Airborne Division during the 2003 invasion and spent a year training a new Iraqi military in 2004. He is considered a leading military counterinsurgency scholar, and has tried to put those tactics to work in Baghdad and its surrounding provinces.

A withdrawal of 30,000 troops would bring the number of American troops to about 130,000.

The Democratic leadership in Congress has been unable to force further reductions. In May, Bush vetoed a call for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by April 2008.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said Monday in a statement, "Today, despite overwhelming evidence that neither goal has been achieved, Gen. Petraeus testified that the surge would last at least until next summer. This is simply unacceptable."

She added, "The president's strategy in Iraq has failed. It is time to change the mission of our troops to one that will promote regional stability and combat terrorism, so that the numbers of our brave men and women in uniform in Iraq can be reduced on a much more aggressive timetable than the one outlined today by Gen. Petraeus."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Monday, "Our enemies around the globe gain great advantage by having the United States mired in an Iraqi civil war." Keeping troops in Iraq until at least July 2008 is "not in the national interest of the United States," he said.

"The longer we keep over 130,000 troops in Iraq, the less incentive Iraqis have to engage in the needed political reconciliation and the longer we avoid dealing with several pressing threats to our national security," namely that Osama bin Laden remains at large, Reid said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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