But the move did little to appease Democratic leaders, who dismissed it as a token gesture masking an open-ended commitment of U.S. troops.
Bush said progress on the ground means he can pull out by next summer the additional combat forces he sent in January -- roughly 21,700 troops -- and he opened the door to further troop reductions if conditions improve. Although the president offered no forecast for how long it will take, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told Washington Post reporters and editors yesterday that current U.S. projections anticipate Iraq reaching nationwide "sustainable security" by June 2009.
Senator John Kerry issued the following statement this evening, in response to the remarks by President Bush:
"Only President Bush could applaud a race back to the starting line when the finish line should be in sight. This is proof positive that the Bush escalation has been a failure. President Bush should acknowledge that the Iraqis have squabbled while American troops fought, squandering the political opportunity our brave soldiers died to create," said Senator John Kerry. "This is more of the same flawed strategy in the face of overwhelming evidence that there is no military solution to Iraq’s civil war. We must change this disastrous Bush policy, and we must change it now."
Glen Kessler of the WaPo offers a fact check on Bush's speech noting that Bush was "citing facts and statistics that at times contradicted recent government reports or his own words."