By Donna Miles
Dec. 20, 2006 – President Bush said today he's counting on new Defense Secretary Robert Gates to bring a fresh perspective to the Pentagon, and he vowed to continue ensuring U.S. troops have what they need to accomplish their mission. Speaking to reporters at a White House news conference, the president said Gates will be "an important voice in the Iraq strategy review that's under way."
Gates arrived in Iraq today to meet with deployed U.S. military leaders and troops and Iraqi leaders and to assess the situation on the ground.
Bush said he considers the views of commanders on the ground there "very important" and wants their feedback. "They are bright, capable, smart people whose opinion matters a lot to me," he said.
In forging the path ahead, Bush said his top priority will be "to ensure that our men and women wearing the uniform have everything they need to do their jobs."
"We have an obligation to ensure our military is capable of sustaining this war over the long haul, and performing the many tasks that we ask of them," he said.
Bush acknowledged the challenges the troops face but said the country stands with them and believes in what they are doing.
"I ...want our troops to understand that we support them," he said. "I believe that the tough mission I've asked them to do is going to be accomplished, and that they're doing good and necessary work."
Although some Americans may have wearied of the war on terror, it's critical that the country remain committed for its long-term security, the president said.
"It's been a tough period for the American people," he acknowledged. "They want to see success. And our objective is to put a plan in place that achieves that success."
Regardless of how that plan ultimately emerges, it won't include a rapid retreat from Iraq, the president said.
"I...know it's the right decision for America to stay engaged, and to take the lead, and to deal with these radicals and extremists and to help support young democracies," he said. "It's the calling of our time, and I firmly believe it is necessary."
Retreat from Iraq would dash the hopes of millions to want freedom. But even worse, the president said, it would embolden terrorists and help them establish a new safe haven for plotting future attacks.
"Success is essential for securing a future of peace for our children and grandchildren," he said. "And securing this peaceful future is going to require a sustained commitment from the American people and our military."
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