By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
May 24, 2007 – This summer will be a critical time for the U.S. strategy in Iraq, President Bush said today as he called on members of Congress from both parties to pass the Defense Department's 2007 emergency supplemental funding request. The Defense Department would receive about $98.6 billion to continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September following a compromise on the supplemental request. Both houses of Congress are set to vote on the measure today.
"By voting for this bill, members of both parties can show our troops and the Iraqis and the enemy that our country will support our servicemen and women in harm's way," Bush said during a White House Rose Garden news conference.
Congress has agreed on a $120 billion supplemental request, which could be delivered to the White House as soon as tomorrow, Hill staffers said. On May 1, Bush vetoed a previous supplemental bill that included language mandating the president begin redeploying troops from Iraq within a year. The new bill contains some domestic spending unrelated to the war effort, but less than what previous versions had included.
Since the veto, White House and congressional leaders have worked together to craft a bill the president would sign.
"We removed the arbitrary timetables on (military) withdrawal and the restrictions on commanders that some in Congress had supported," Bush said.
Instead of timetables, the legislation calls on the Iraqi government to make progress on security and reconciliation benchmarks. If the government does not meet these benchmarks, the bill calls on the United States to withhold reconstruction money.
Bush said the benchmarks are going to be tough to make. He said the Iraqis are establishing a government as they are "under relentless attack from extremists and radicals that are trying to bring down the young democracy."
The benchmarks will provide the Iraqi government and the American people with a clear roadmap on the way forward, the president said.
This summer is going to be a critical time for the new strategy, he stressed. "The last of five reinforcement brigades we are sending to Iraq is scheduled to arrive in Baghdad by mid-June," Bush said. "As these reinforcements carry out their missions, the enemies of a free Iraq -- including al Qaeda and illegal militias -- will continue to bomb and murder in an attempt to stop us.
"We expect heavy fighting in the weeks and months ahead," he continued. "We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties. We must provide our troops with the funds and resources they need to prevail."
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