From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Declaring that the United States had averted failure in Iraq, President Bush said on Thursday that the senior commander there could “have all the time he needs” before reducing troops further. Mr. Bush ordered shorter tours for troops, but defied calls by Democrats in Congress to withdraw more troops more quickly.
Mr. Bush defended the costs of the war, in lives and money, and said that withdrawing from Iraq would be catastrophic to the national interests. He signaled that an American force nearly as large as at any point in the last five years would remain in Iraq through his presidency, leaving any significant changes in policy to the next president.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said the president “refuses to face reality.”
“It’s time for the president to answer the question being asked of him: in the wake of the failed surge, what is the endgame in Iraq?” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement.
With only nine months now left in his presidency, Mr. Bush has begun making the case for a war that will be fought under another commander-in-chief.
“If we fail there, Al Qaeda would claim a propaganda victory of colossal proportions, and they could gain safe havens in Iraq from which to attack the United States, our friends and our allies,” he said. “Iran would work to fill the vacuum in Iraq, and our failure would embolden its radical leaders and fuel their ambitions to dominate the region.” Mr. Bush’s focus on Iran, while not new, reflected deepening concerns in the administration and the Pentagon about that country’s support for some extremists, which was evident during the indecisive Iraqi operation late last month to wrest control of Basra from Shiite militias.
Mr. Bush sought at some length in his remarks to address criticisms of the war raised by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. He said that Iraq was increasingly paying for reconstruction and security with its own revenues, flush now because of the high price of oil.
He also announced that American troops headed to Iraq after Aug. 1 would deploy for only 12 months, instead of 15 months, a hugely unpopular extension he imposed as part of the buildup in Iraq last year. He also said that troops would remain at home at least a year for each year spent in the field, a requirement that many lawmakers wanted to codify in legislation.
With the war now in its sixth year, Mr. Bush appeared to acknowledge the criticism that no end was in sight. He said that as a democratic Iraq strengthens, Iraqi political leaders and security forces would shoulder more of the responsibility of governance and allow additional American troops to return home.
“And while this war is difficult,” he said, “it is not endless.”