Bush on surprise visit to Iraq Monday: It may be possible to maintain security with fewer US troops if current progress continues
Bush capped his unannounced visit to Iraq Monday, Sept. 2, with a speech to cheering US troops at an Anbar air base west of Baghdad. The US president told them their success in the province denied al Qaeda a safe base from which to plot attacks on the USA. He pledged that the drawdown of troop levels would depend on “calm assessments by commanders in the field – not poll-driven politics in Washington.”
Bush earlier met Sunni tribal sheiks who, he said, had once fought with al Qaeda against the coalition and now fought with the coalition against al Qaeda. The way was being paved for political reconciliation and the building of a civil society in Iraq.
His visit with Secretaries Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates was meant to underscore the improvements in security in some parts of Iraq which Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will embody in their progress report to Congress in a few days.
debkafile: Bush made no mention of the British military pull-out from Basra Palace and city to an air base at its international airport on the day he arrived in Iraq. The British withdrawal is more of a retreat and admission by America’s senior coalition partner in Iraq that after four years, its troops have lost control over their area of jurisdiction in the South to anti-West and pro-Iranian Shiite militias and extremists.
All 5,500 British soldiers in Iraq are now confined to the Basra airport base.
Bush met with Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, before taking off for Australia to attend an Asian-Pacific summit in Sydney.