WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush will tell the nation Wednesday
night he will send more than 20,000 additional American forces to
Iraq, acknowledging that it was a mistake earlier not to have more
American and Iraqi troops fighting the war.
Seeking support for a retooled strategy to win support for the
unpopular war, the president will acknowledge that the rules of
engagement were flawed because certain neighborhoods in Baghdad
were put off limits by the government of Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki, White House counselor Dan Bartlett said. "Military
operations sometimes were handcuffed by political interference by
the Iraqi leadership," he said.
Bartlett also said the Iraqis had failed to deliver on earlier
pledges to commit more of their troops. "They (the Iraqis) are
going to have more boots on the ground," he said. "They're going
to be the ones doing the knocking on the door."
Al-Maliki has assured Bush that "this is going to be an
operation in Baghdad that will make no difference between Shiite,
Sunni or other types of illegal militia or illegal activity,"
Even before Bush speaks, Democrats were laying plans to register
their opposition to the troop buildup. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
pledged to hold a vote on the increase, trying to isolate Bush on
his handling of the war. Democratic leaders in the Senate, saying
they hoped to win some Republican support, said they planned to
have their chamber debate a symbolic measure next week also
expressing opposition to troop increases.
The Democratic congressional election victory in November showed
"American voters expect us to help get us out of Iraq," Sen.
Joseph Biden, D-Del., a 2008 presidential hopeful and chairman of
the Foreign Relations Committee, said as his panel heard
independent experts on Iraq.
In the latest sign of GOP unease on the war, Sen. Richard Lugar
of Indiana, top Republican on the Foreign Relations panel, said,
"The president and his team need to explain what objectives we are
trying to achieve if forces are expanded, where and how they will
be used," and how long additional troops may be needed.
For a little over 20 minutes Wednesday night, Bush is to explain
why a gradual buildup of about 20,000 additional U.S. troops, along
with other steps expected to include pumping $1 billion into Iraq's
economy, is the answer for a more than 3½-year-old war that has
only gotten deadlier with no end in sight.
The administration plans to expand an existing program to
decentralize reconstruction efforts. Ten units known as Provincial
Reconstruction Teams will be expanded to 19, with the additional
units based in Baghdad and in Anbar province, seats of most of the
worst violence. The teams, under State Department control, will
administer some of the economic aid, including an effort to provide
small loans to start or expand businesses.
Bartlett did a round of interviews on television morning shows
to set the stage for the president's address.
"A vast majority of the American people are not satisfied with
the progress in Iraq," Bartlett said. "President Bush is in their
camp. He's not satisfied, he's going to say the strategy was not
working, he's going to tell them specifically how we're going to
fix the strategy."
Bush will say that the infusion of additional American forces
will depend on Iraq taking specific steps to curb sectarian
violence and making other moves to deal with political and economic
problems. The first batch of new U.S. troops is expected to be in
Iraq within three weeks.
Bartlett also said that Bush will "make very clear that
America's commitment is not open-ended, that benchmarks have to be
met, that milestones have to be reached both on the security side
but just as importantly on the political side and the economic
side. It will be unequivocal in President Bush's speech tonight
that the Iraqis have to step up."
In his speech, Bush was to acknowledge that mistakes have been
made, Bartlett said.
"The president will say very clearly tonight that there were
mistakes with the earlier operations, that it did not have enough
Iraqi troops or U.S. troops, that the rules of engagement - the
terms in which our troops would actually conduct these operations -
were flawed," Bartlett said.
After nearly four years of fighting, $400 billion and thousands
of American and Iraqi lives lost, the White House calls the
president's prime-time address from the White House library just
the start of a debate over Iraq's many problems.
The address - one of the most pivotal of Bush's presidency - is
the centerpiece of an aggressive public relations campaign that
also will include detailed briefings for lawmakers and reporters,
trips abroad by Cabinet members and a series of appearances by Bush
starting with a trip Thursday to Fort Benning, Ga.
Crafting the new policy took the president nearly three months.
Relevant agencies conducted reviews, outside experts were called
in, and the president consulted several times with Iraqi Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other prominent Iraqi leaders.
In the meantime, the sectarian violence in Iraq continued
unabated, and public approval of Bush's handling of the Iraq war
hit a record low of 27 percent in December, according to an
The president will say that the 132,000 troops now in Iraq will
be augmented with more sent to both Baghdad, which has been
consumed by sectarian violence, and the western Anbar Province, a
base of the Sunni insurgency and foreign al-Qaida fighters.
Moving first into Iraq will be the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne
Division, which is now in Kuwait and poised to head quickly into
the country, a defense official said. The brigade, numbering about
3,500 troops, is based at Fort Bragg, N.C.
The president will ignore the recommendation of the bipartisan
Iraq Study Group that he include Syria and Iran in discussions
about efforts to staunch Iraqi bloodshed, the official said.