By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
April 10, 2007 – It's time for the Iraqi government to step up and "do hard work," but withdrawing U.S. troops too quickly would ultimately backfire, President Bush told an American Legion post in Fairfax, Va., today. Bush said the decision to send more troops to Iraq to help stabilize the capital was tough but necessary. Military commanders he talked with support the plan as the only real option in light of escalating violence.
The president said the generals recognized that leaving Iraq before the Iraqis had enough trained troops to secure Baghdad would have left a dangerous void for terrorists and insurgents to take advantage of. "The lack of security would have created an opportunity for extremists to move in," he said.
The long-term impact would have been devastating to the United States, Bush said. Terrorists would have been emboldened by America's perceived weakness, better able to recruit more people to their cause and with a new safe haven for launching future attacks.
"What happens in the Middle East matters here in America," the president said. "If we ... were to retreat from Iraq, ... the enemy would follow us here. And that's why it's important we succeed in Iraq."
Bush said he vowed on Sept. 11, 2001, that the United States would go on the offense against its enemies overseas so it never again has to confront them at home. "We don't have the luxury of hoping for the best, of sitting back and being passive in the face of this threat," he said.
U.S. troops in Iraq are helping the Iraqis confront terrorists and extremists and showing "some encouraging signs" in bringing down the violence, Bush said. "The reinforcements are having an impact," he said. "And as more reinforcements go in, it'll have a greater impact."
U.S. forces also are making headway in training and equipping Iraq's security forces so they can eventually take over the mission themselves, the president said.
But despite these positive trends, Bush said, ultimate success in Iraq depends largely on the Iraqi government.
"Now it's time for ... the Iraqi government to stand up and start making some strong political moves," he said. "And they're beginning to."
Bush said he speaks often with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and reminds him that the United States expects the Iraqis to do more of the heavy lifting. "We want to help, but we expect them to do some hard work," Bush said.
The president said he's confident that the Iraqis know what's expected of them and want to "do the job."
But as that happens, he said, it's vital that the United States not lose its will and give up. History would look back and wonder, if that scenario was allowed to play out, how the country could have allowed the situation in Iraq to spin out of control and threaten the United States, the president said.
The biggest question, he said, would be, "How come they couldn't remember the lesson of September the 11th?"
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