Iraq War news

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bush sees troops still in Iraq in 3 years

Top News Article | Reuters.co.uk: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said on Tuesday it is possible some U.S. troops will still be in Iraq after his presidency ends in three years time, but he insisted civil war had not erupted there."

Washington has resisted setting a timetable for withdrawal although American officials have said a substantial pullout could start later this year and many of Bush's Republican allies are anxious to show progress before U.S. congressional elections in November.

With Iraqi leaders and the U.S. ambassador warning of the imminent risk of civil war in Iraq, the 133,000 heavily armed U.S. troops are seen as vital in stemming violence.

Asked when all U.S. forces would finally pull out of Iraq, Bush told a White House news conference: "That will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq."

Bush must step down when his term ends in January 2009.

White House officials cautioned that Bush was asked when "all" U.S. forces would withdraw and pointed to recent comments from U.S. generals in Iraq predicting substantial reductions later this year and into 2007.

Defence officials also said Army Gen. John Abizaid, who oversees U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as head of Central Command, had agreed to keep the job at least another year at the request of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking to troops in Illinois, held out hope for troop reductions but said the decisions would be made by military commanders.

"As the Iraqi forces gain strength and experience, and as the political process advances, we'll be able to decrease troop levels without losing our capacity to defeat the terrorists," Cheney told soldiers at Scott Air Force Base.

CIVILIAN KILLINGS

As Bush addressed Americans' concerns on Iraq three years after the U.S. invasion, Iraqis voiced new complaints about alleged killings of civilians by U.S. troops.

The military announced a second investigation in the space of a few days into accusations that soldiers shot women and children in their homes.

A U.S. Army dog handler was convicted of abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison and faces more than eight years in jail.

The U.S.-trained Iraqi forces that Washington hopes will take on most security tasks suffered one of their worst setbacks when suspected al Qaeda guerrillas killed at least 22 people, mostly policemen, and freed over 30 prisoners from jail.

About 100 insurgents staged the dawn raid on two official buildings in Miqdadiya, northeast of Baghdad, officials said. Ten of the attackers were also killed, one source said.

Bush dismissed comments from former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi that sectarian violence constituted civil war, saying it was a good sign that an attack a month ago on a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra failed to spark all-out conflict.

"The way I look at it, the Iraqis took a look and decided not to give in to civil war," Bush said.

UPBEAT MESSAGE

Despite grim images on television screens of death and mayhem, Bush remained upbeat. "I'm optimistic we'll succeed," he said. "If not, I'd pull our troops out. If I didn't believe we had a plan for victory, I wouldn't leave our people in harm's way."

In Iraq, a delegation of U.S. senators expressed impatience with Iraqi leaders' failure, three months after an election, to form a government that could help contain the conflict.

"The American people are of good heart ... but do not try in any way to deceive them or let this progress indicate to the world a less than sincere and prompt effort to bring about a new government," John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said after meeting Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

"There has to be some pressure put on political leaders to reach a settlement," said his Democratic colleague Sen. Carl Levin. "The American people are impatient."

A U.S. soldier was shot dead in Baghdad Tuesday, the 2,319th American serviceman to die in the conflict.

The U.S. military said it was investigating Iraqi police allegations that its troops shot dead a family of 11, including five children, in their home at Ishaqi, north of Baghdad, last week. Soldiers said they killed four, including a militant.

The probe began after a magazine published allegations that U.S. Marines killed 15 civilians in another town last year. A criminal inquiry into those deaths was launched last week.

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria in Washington, Michael Georgy, Ross Colvin, Aseel Kami, Mariam Karouny, Omar al-Ibadi and Hiba Moussa in Baghdad and Ali al-Mashhadani in Haditha)

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