By Jim Garamone
Dec. 20, 2006 – Victory in Iraq is achievable, and retreat from Iraq is not an option, President Bush said today during a White House news conference. "We're going to succeed," he said. "We're not succeeding near as fast as I wanted, and conditions are tough in Iraq, and particularly in Baghdad."
But Bush called the war on terror "the calling of our generation," and said success is essential for securing peace for future generations.
Achieving this success, however, will require a sustained commitment by the American people and the military, Bush said, including a possible increase in the size of the Army and Marine Corps.
"We have an obligation to ensure the military is capable of sustaining this war over the long haul, and performing the many tasks that we ask of them," he said. "I'm inclined to believe that we need to increase the permanent size of the United States Army and the United States Marines."
New Defense Secretary Robert Gates will study how to accomplish this growth, the president said.
Bush said he will work with Congress to determine the best way to grow the force. "I will listen to views from all corners," he said. "We will work with them to ensure this becomes a reality."
The president said 2006 started out on a positive note but proved to be a difficult year for the U.S. military and the Iraqi people.
"We began the year with optimism after watching 12 million Iraqis go to the polls to vote for a unity government and a free people," he said.
But terrorists and insurgents attacked the process, blowing up the Golden Mosque in Samarra and doing their best to bring on sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiia.
"Throughout the year, they had success," Bush said. "Their success hurt our efforts to help the Iraqis rebuild their country. It set back reconciliation, it kept Iraq's unity government and out coalition from establishing security and stability throughout the country."
Bush said the United States enters 2007 "clear-eyed" about the challenges in Iraq, and steady in its purpose.
"Our goal remains a free and democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself and is an ally in the war on terror," Bush said.
The president said he would not make predictions about the mission in Iraq in the next year, but he said anything done will require additional choices and sacrifices, because the enemy is merciless and violent.
"I will make you this promise: My administration will work with Republicans and Democrats to fashion a new way forward that will succeed in Iraq," Bush said.
He said the coalition will change its strategy and tactics whenever needed in response to the activities on the ground. He said he will never forget "that on the receiving end of the decisions I make is a private, a sergeant, a young lieutenant or a diplomat who risks his or her life to help the Iraqis realize a dream of a stable country that can defend govern and sustain itself."
Bush said he is looking at a number of options and is listening to the opinions of many people as he fashions a new way forward in Iraq. He said one option is increasing the number of American troops in the country, but emphasized that the troops must have a clear attainable mission before he chooses that option.
Bush said the most painful aspect of his presidency "is that good men and women have died in combat" following his orders.
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