WASHINGTON President Bush will tell the nation this week he plans to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq by about 30,000 by next summer, but will condition those and further cuts on continued progress, The Associated Press has learned.
In a prime-time television address, probably Thursday, Bush will endorse the recommendations of his top general and top diplomat in Iraq, following their appearance at two days of hearings in Congress, administration officials said. The White House plans to issue a written status report on the so-called surge on Friday, they said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Bush s speech is not yet finally drafted. White House officials were preparing the address even as the U.S. commanding general, David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker were presenting arguments to stay the course in Iraq in a second day of testimony on Capitol Hill.
The reductions envisioned by the White House mirror those proposed by Petraeus and would leave approximately 130,000 U.S. troops on the ground by August, roughly the level at which they were before Bush ordered the buildup early this year, the officials said.
In the speech, the president will say he understands the deep concerns Americans have about U.S. involvement in Iraq and their desire to bring the troops home, they said. Bush will say that after hearing from Petraeus and Crocker, he has decided on a way forward that will reduce the number of troops but not abandon Iraq, they said.
The address will stake out a conciliatory tone toward Congress but Bush will place more conditions on the pace of reductions to the pre-buildup level of 130,000 than Petraeus did.
At the White House this afternoon, Bush met with House and Senate lawmakers of both parties to discuss Iraq. He publicly pledged to consider their input. It s very important before I make up mind that I consult with leaders of the House and the Senate, he said.
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