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Bush: Troops in Iraq to Begin Returning Home

  • VOA News

President Bush says the United States can now begin bringing home some of its troops from Iraq, because key security objectives are being accomplished there.

Senior administration officials say Mr. Bush will announce, in a speech to the nation beginning shortly (this evening / at 0100 UTC) that 57-hundred American troops will be permanently withdrawn from Iraq by December.

White House officials say the departing troops will begin leaving Iraq this month.

In excerpts of his remarks released in advance, the president says the United States has "moral and strategic imperatives" to help Iraq defeat those who threaten its future - "terrorists and extremists," in Mr. Bush's words.

Mr. Bush says Iraq's government has been successful in passing a budget and sharing oil revenues with local provinces. But he says Baghdad's leaders must work harder to achieve reconciliation and meet legislative benchmarks.

Senior officials say Mr. Bush has endorsed a recommendation by the top US commander in Iraq (General David Petraeus) to reduce combat brigades there ( - from 20 brigades to 15). That would reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to levels before this year'sd "surge," when an additional 30-thousand troops were sent into combat.

In testimony to the US Congress this week, General Petraeus recommended the withdrawal of 30-thousand U.S. troops from Iraq by mid-2008, leaving about 130-thousand Americans stationed there.

Administration officials say Petraeus will brief Congress on Iraq again in March to gauge what troop strength is necessary for continued success.

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