Bush expected to announce withdrawal of 8,000 troops from Iraq
September 8, 2008
President Bush is expected to announce Tuesday that 8,000 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of February.
He is also expected to say that an extra Marine battalion will head to Afghanistan this November, followed by an Army brigade combat team in January.
Spokesmen with the Army and Marine Corps could not identify the units headed to Afghanistan. Neither could a Defense Department spokesman.
Bush plans to speak Tuesday at the National Defense University on future U.S. troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The White House released his prepared remarks on Monday evening.
Bush is expected to note the security progress in Iraq since the troop buildup last year known as the “surge.”
“Over the next several months, we will bring home about 3,400 combat support forces – including aviation personnel, explosive ordnance teams, combat and construction engineers, military police and logistical support forces,” Bush’s prepared remarks say.
“By November, we will bring home a Marine battalion that is now serving in Anbar province,” according to the remarks. “And in February of 2009, another Army combat brigade will come home. This amounts to about 8,000 additional American troops returning home without replacement.”
Bush is also expected to raise the possibility of future troop reductions in the first half of 2009 “if the progress in Iraq continues to hold.”
Meanwhile, Bush paints a dire picture of Afghanistan in his speech.
“Its enemies are some of the most hardened terrorists and extremists in the world,” Bush is expected to say. “With their brutal attacks, the Taliban and the terrorists have made some progress in shaking the confidence of the Afghan people. And in the face of all these challenges, the Afghan people are naturally questioning what their future will look like.”
According to the WHite House, Bush will announce that a Marine battalion and Army brigade combat team will head to Afghanistan by January.
“The mission of these forces will be to work with Afghan forces to provide security for the Afghan people, protect Afghanistan’s infrastructure and democratic institutions and help ensure access to services like education and health care,” Bush is expected to say.
Last month, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said it was “plausible” that a Marine battalion could replace the 2nd Battalion 7th Marines, which is currently training Afghan security forces.
Conway has been a proponent of a greater Marine Corps presence in Afghanistan.
“We made the point that as we start to draw down in Iraq, when that first regiment comes out, we’ll be forced with the decision — do we bring it home or do we put it in Afghanistan? And I believe that Marines need to march to the sound of the guns, and if there’s a fight still going on, the Marines need to be there,” he told Stars and Stripes in June.