Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Admitting strategy error, Bush adds Iraq troops

NBC News and news services - Defying public opinion polls and newly empowered Democratic lawmakers, President Bush told Americans Wednesday that he is dispatching 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq. And in a rare admission, he said he made a mistake by not deploying more forces sooner.

“The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people, and it is unacceptable to me,” Bush said in a televised address from the White House. “Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.”

With American patience running thin over his handling of the war, Bush said he would put greater pressure on Iraqis to restore order in Baghdad and used blunt language to warn Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that “America’s commitment is not open-ended.”

“If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people, and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people,” Bush said.

Bush said his new strategy, in which Iraqis will try to take responsibility for security in all 18 provinces by November rather than just three now, “will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings” and other violence.

But he said the increased military presence would help break the cycle of violence gripping Iraq and “hasten the day our troops begin coming home.”

Bush said that 17,500 troops would go to Baghdad and 4,000 to the volatile Anbar province, Senior administration officials said before the president spoke that the first wave of troops is expected to arrive in five days, with others joining about 130,000 U.S. troops already in Iraq in the coming weeks.

Bush’s decision will push the American presence in Iraq toward its highest level and puts him on a collision course with the new Democratic Congress.