President Bush announced this week that he is not ready to order more troop withdrawals from Iraq.
Fifteen months ago, he ordered a temporary increase of thirty thousand troops. The last of those troops return home in July.
After that, any withdrawals will be suspended for at least forty-five days while the American commander studies conditions in Iraq. General David Petraeus will decide if further reductions are possible. The president has told General Petraeus that he will have "all the time he needs."
But Mister Bush ordered a reduction in future deployment lengths from fifteen months to twelve months. The change will affect Army soldiers going to Iraq and Afghanistan after August first. Deployments were twelve months, but were lengthened a year ago as part of the so-called surge in Iraq.
After the extra troops leave, the United States will have about one hundred forty thousand troops in Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he no longer believes troops levels will drop to one hundred thousand by the time Mister Bush leaves office.
|President Bush meets with General David Petraeus and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker on Thursday|
The president based his plans on the latest progress reports by General Petraeus and the American ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker. They appeared before lawmakers in Congress this week. The war began in March of two thousand three.
Mister Bush said Iraq is the point where "two of the greatest threats to America" come together: al-Qaida and Iran. He said the war is difficult but not endless. And he said he expects that as conditions continue to improve, they will permit him to continue a policy known as return on success.
Democratic leaders are demanding answers about when American troops can return home. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the president of lengthening the war. She says he wants to leave the difficult decisions to the next president who replaces him in January.
All three leading candidates for the November election returned to Washington to attend this week's hearings on the war. The two Democratic senators fighting for their party's nomination renewed their calls for a withdrawal.
Hillary Clinton said it is time to begin an orderly process. Barack Obama called for setting a time period for a withdrawal, to increase pressure on the Iraqis to make political compromises.
Senator Obama often notes that he was an early critic of the invasion, while Senator Clinton voted for a war resolution in two thousand two. That was three years before Barack Obama became a senator.
Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate, warned against a withdrawal before enough security is established in Iraq. He said it could lead to a civil war with effects across the Middle East. And he said an American failure would most likely require the United States to return to Iraq for a wider and far costlier war.
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I’m Steve Ember.