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Sources: Bush to address nation on Iraq, but not in prime time

  • Story Highlights
  • Speech to follow testimony from Gen. David Petraeus, Ambassador Ryan Crocker
  • Petraeus, Crocker gave first progress report to Congress last September
  • Sources say speech will be an update on "where we are" in Iraq
  • Dems say war made U.S. less safe; White House says U.S. committed to victory
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From Ed Henry
CNN White House Correspondent
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush is planning to address the nation Thursday morning about the Iraq war, according to sources in the Bush administration and on Capitol Hill.

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President Bush is expected to talk about combat tours and the future of Iraq in an address Thursday.

The address will come after Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker wrap up two days of testimony to Congress.

Republican and Democratic officials said the president is expected to discuss the administration's decision to reduce combat tours of duty from 15 months to 12 months, as well as the future in Iraq.

"It will be an update -- having been briefed by Petraeus and Crocker, here's where we are," one Republican official said of the president's plans.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to testify Thursday to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

When Petraeus and Crocker finished their first progress report to Congress last September, the president addressed the nation. But while that speech was delivered in prime time, officials said this week's speech will come in the daytime, a sign the electorate is more focused on the economy than the war in Iraq right now. Video Watch what Petraeus could face on Capitol Hill »

After delivering his speech, Bush is scheduled to head to Texas for a few days of rest at his Crawford ranch.

White House officials are not commenting on whether the president will address the nation on the situation in Iraq, with spokesman Tony Fratto saying the White House is focused on waiting to hear directly from Petraeus and Crocker.

"We would prefer to listen to the facts, listen to our commanders on the ground, and then make the responsible decision to protect our national security interests," Fratto told CNN Sunday. "We look forward to hearing General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testify this week."

Offering a glimpse on what he might say this week, Bush said last month that how the Iraqi government deals with the recent spate of violence is a "defining moment" in the war.

"I have said in my remarks there's been substantial progress, and there has been," Bush said. "But it's still a dangerous, fragile situation in Iraq."

In advance of this week's events, Democrats are saying once again that they believe the war in Iraq has made the United States less safe.

"Based on everything we have heard so far, the president has no intention of bringing home any more troops anytime soon and is instead leaving the tough decisions to the next administration," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. "In effect, he is going to kick the can down the road."

Reid and 46 of his Senate Democratic colleagues sent the president a letter Sunday demanding that he refocus the nation's counter-terrorism strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"While violence and the drug trade have surged in Afghanistan and Pakistan's security remains fragile, we are distracted by an endless civil war in Iraq," Reid said in a prepared statement. "To make America more secure, we must refocus on hunting down a resurgent al Qaeda, securing a troubled Afghanistan and rebuilding our overburdened and misused military."

White House officials responded that the administration is committed to victory in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

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"What everyone should have seen this past week in Romania is that we and our NATO allies are clearly committed to success in Afghanistan," Fratto said of the NATO Summit in Eastern Europe. "NATO allies are committing more combat troops and resources, and, as [French] President [Nicolas] Sarkozy said, we all signed up in Afghanistan to succeed -- and we will."

Fratto added: "We all understand, after scores of failed votes, that Democrats would prefer to walk away from our mission and abandon our responsibilities in Iraq, regardless of all evidence of success. And we also understand that they would prefer to change the subject rather than to hear reporting on progress in Iraq" from Petraeus and Crocker. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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