BREAKING: Excerpts From the President's Speech to the Nation

On keeping us safe here at home:

In Iraq, an ally of the United States is fighting for its survival.  Terrorists and extremists who are at war with us around the world are seeking to topple Iraq’s government, dominate the region, and attack us here at home.

This ally has placed its trust in the United States.  And tonight, our moral and strategic imperatives are one:  We must help Iraq defeat those who threaten its future – and also threaten ours. 

On the success of the surge:

The premise of our strategy is that securing the Iraqi population is the foundation for all other progress… The goal of the surge is to provide that security — and to help prepare Iraqi forces to maintain it.  As I will explain tonight, our success in meeting these objectives now allows us to begin bringing some of our troops home.   

On political progress:

Now the Iraqi government must bring the same determination to achieving reconciliation.  This is an enormous undertaking after more than three decades of tyranny and division.  The government has not met its own legislative benchmarks — and in my meetings with Iraqi leaders, I have made it clear that they must.

Yet Iraq’s national leaders are getting some things done.  For example, they have passed a budget.  They are sharing oil revenues with the provinces… And local reconciliation is taking place.  The key now is to link this progress in the provinces to progress in Baghdad.  As local politics change, so will national politics.

On the principle of “Return on Success”:

The principle guiding my decisions on troop levels in Iraq is “return on success.”  The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home.  And in all we do, I will ensure that our commanders on the ground have the troops and flexibility they need to defeat the enemy.

On coming together as a Nation to support this mission:

Americans want our country to be safe, and our troops to begin coming home from Iraq.  Yet those of us who believe success in Iraq is essential to our security, and those who believe we should bring our troops home, have been at odds.  Now, because of the measure of success we are seeing in Iraq, we can begin seeing troops come home.

The way forward I have described tonight makes it possible, for the first time in years, for people who have been on opposite sides of this difficult debate to come together. 

On an enduring relationship with Iraq that requires many fewer American troops:

This vision for a reduced American presence also has the support of Iraqi leaders from all communities.  At the same time, they understand that their success will require U.S. political, economic, and security engagement that extends beyond my Presidency.  These Iraqi leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America.  And we are ready to begin building that relationship – in a way that protects our interests in the region and requires many fewer American troops. 

On why we must succeed:

The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States. 

Realizing this vision will be difficult — but it is achievable.  Our military commanders believe we can succeed.  Our diplomats believe we can succeed.  And for the safety of future generations of Americans, we must succeed.

Whatever political party you belong to, whatever your position on Iraq, we should be able to agree that America has a vital interest in preventing chaos and providing hope in the Middle East.  We should be able to agree that we must defeat al Qaeda, counter Iran, help the Afghan government, work for peace in the Holy Land, and strengthen our military so we can prevail in the struggle against terrorists and extremists.  

So tonight I want to speak to Members of the United States Congress:  Let us come together on a policy of strength in the Middle East. I thank you for providing crucial funds and resources for our military.  And I ask you to join me in supporting the recommendations General Petraeus has made, and the troop levels he has asked for.

On the gains we are making in Iraq:

Some say the gains we are making in Iraq come too late.  They are mistaken.  It is never too late to deal a blow to al Qaeda.  It is never too late to advance freedom.  And it is never too late to support our troops in a fight they can win.

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Iraq Facts: 9/13/07

The military objectives of the surge are in large measure being met. (Gen. David Petraeus, Armed Services Committee And Committee On Foreign Affairs Hearing, U.S. House Of Representatives, 9/10/07)

·        Iraq-wide ethno-sectarian deaths have gone down more than 55% since December 2006.

o       In Baghdad, ethno-sectarian deaths are down some 80% since December 2006.

·        Overall security incidents in Iraq declined in 8 of the past 12 weeks, with incidents in the last two weeks at the lowest levels seen since June 2006, and attacks over the past week the lowest since April 2006.

·        Civilian deaths of all categories, not including those from natural causes, declined more than 45% Iraq-wide since the height of the sectarian violence in December.

·        Coalition forces have also disrupted Shia militia extremists, capturing the head and numerous other leaders of the Iranian-supported Special Groups, along with a senior Lebanese Hizballah operative supporting Iran’s activities in Iraq.

·        Forces have found and cleared more than 4,400 weapons caches in 2007—nearly 1,700 more than in all of 2006.

·        Overall improvised explosive device attacks have declined by about one-third since June.

·        Car bombings and suicide attacks have declined in each of the past five months, from a high of some 175 in March to about 90 this past month.

Coalition and Iraqi forces have dealt significant blows to al Qaeda in Iraq, taken away a number of their sanctuaries, and gained the initiative in many areas. (Gen. David Petraeus, Armed Services Committee And Committee On Foreign Affairs Hearing, U.S. House Of Representatives, 9/10/07) Coalition forces:

·        Detained the highest ranking Iraqi in the leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq.

·        Killed or captured dozens of key leaders and rank-and-file fighters, worked to disrupt the group’s support networks, and cooperated with local tribes who have turned against and are now battling the group.

The most significant development in the past six months likely has been the increasing emergence of tribes and local citizens rejecting al Qaeda and other extremists in Anbar and elsewhere. (Gen. David Petraeus, Armed Services Committee And Committee On Foreign Affairs Hearing, U.S. House Of Representatives, 9/10/07)

·        Monthly attack levels in Anbar have declined from some 1,350 in October 2006 to just over 200 in August 2007.

·        Some 20,000 Anbar residents are already being hired for the Iraqi Police, thousands of others are being assimilated into the Iraqi Army, and thousands more are vying for spots in Iraq’s Security Forces.

Iraqi Security Forces have continued to grow, to develop their capabilities, and shoulder more of the burden of providing security for their country. (Gen. David Petraeus, Armed Services Committee And Committee On Foreign Affairs Hearing, U.S. House Of Representatives, 9/10/07)

·        There are now nearly 140 Iraqi Army, National Police, and Special Operations Forces Battalions in the fight, with about 95 capable of taking the lead in operations.

·        General Petraeus: “Currently there are some 445,000 individuals on the payrolls of Iraq’s Interior and Defense Ministries.”

·        The number of Iraq’s security forces will grow further by the end of this year, possibly by as much as 40,000.

·        In 2007, Iraq will spend more on its security forces than it will receive in security assistance from the United States.

Ambassador Crocker: “[W]e are seeing Iraqis come to terms with complex issues, not by first providing a national framework, but instead by tackling immediate problems.” (Amb. Ryan Crocker, Armed Services Committee And Committee On Foreign Affairs Hearing, U.S. House Of Representatives, 9/10/07)

·        The central government has accepted more than 1,700 young men from the Abu Ghraib area west of Baghdad to be part of the Iraqi security forces, including former members of insurgent groups.

·        The government of Iraq has contacted thousands of members of the former Iraqi army and offered them retirement, return to the military, or public sector employment.

Provinces have grown in their ability to design and execute budgets in coordination with the central government. (Amb. Ryan Crocker, Armed Services Committee And Committee On Foreign Affairs Hearing, U.S. House Of Representatives, 9/10/07)

·        On September 5, Iraq’s senior federal leadership traveled to Anbar and announced a 70% increase in the 2007 provincial capital budget, as well as $50 million to compensate losses incurred by Anbaris.

·        The government of Iraq has placed some 21,000 Anbaris on police payrolls.

·        The 2007 governmental budget allocated $10 billion, nearly one-third of Iraq’s expected oil export revenue, to capital investment.

o       National ministries and provincial councils have proceeded to commit these funds at more than twice the rate of last year.


Q. What is the President’s response to today’s killing of Anbar Sheik Abdul Sattar?

A.  We strongly condemn today’s assassination of Sheikh Abdul Sattar.  His efforts, and those of his fellow tribal sheikhs, to take the fight to al Qaeda and bring peace and security to Anbar and other regions of Iraq exemplify the courage and determination of the Iraqi people. 

The President recognized this courage in his recent meeting in Anbar with Sheikh Sattar and other leaders.  His death reminds us that the struggle will require continued perseverance, and the Iraqis are increasingly turning away from al Qaeda as a result of such extreme acts of violence.  We will continue to stand with the leaders and people of Iraq as they strive for peace and stability for their country.

Q.  Wasn’t the surge going to end anyway?

A.  General Petraeus is recommending that the surge brigades be curtailed earlier than they need to be since the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met.

As he put it yesterday, “The surge forces were scheduled to go home between April and mid-July. That is absolutely right. But you know, again, I could have requested more surge forces, and we certainly could have run it much longer, again, than as I said I’ve requested.”

If General Petraeus recommended running every brigade all the way to their 15-month deployment marks, they would all remain through April — when the first of the surge brigades hits the 15 month mark. Instead, he recommended they begin leaving in December.  General Petraeus also recommended the withdrawal of a (non-surge) Marine expeditionary unit this month without replacement.

Both General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have stated that reducing forces to the pre-surge level by next summer based on success and conditions on the ground will not diminish the gains Coalition forces have fought so hard to achieve.

Q.  What is the number of troop reductions?

A.  General Petraeus recommended the reduction in a number of combat forces, citing the departure of the Marine Expeditionary Unit this month and one of the surge Brigades in December followed by the other 4 brigades over time.  He has not addressed fully other troops in Iraq, including the enablers who support the combat troops.  Thus, the number of troop reductions will likely be less than the 30,000 that has been reported in the press.