It was the fifth major talk Bush has presented over three weeks aimed at popularizing the U.S. rulers strategy for victory in Iraq. The speeches were part of a counteroffensive by the war partythe vast majority of Republican and Democratic office holdersagainst the more and more isolated calls by a few liberals for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.
We recognize Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, Bush insisted. We cannot and will not leave Iraq until victory is achieved. At the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia December 12 he asserted, There is no middle ground as the choice in Iraq is between democracy and terrorism.
Congressional critics responded by making clear that bipartisan support for the war is firm. Drawing down significantly American forces now would be a mistake, said Democratic Senator Joseph Biden. Its wrong for him to silence his critics by calling them defeatists, stated Democratic senator Edward Kennedy, referring to Bush. Every American…understands that we have no choice for our own security but to win in Iraq.
Final election results wont be known until the end of the year. However, an Iraqi Independent Elections Commission official said that between 10 and 11 million votes were castas much as 70 percent of the 15.5 million eligible voters.
Participation in the vote was particularly high in Sunni areas that had largely boycotted the Jan. 30, 2005, election for a transitional National Assembly. One official said that between 75 and 80 percent of voters had turned out in Ramadi, a centre of the insurgency west of Baghdad where only a handful had voted in previous nationwide polls, reported the Financial Times.
Among the coalitions vying for seats in the National Assembly are the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance, the Kurdish alliance, a coalition of Sunni Arab parties called the Iraqi Accord Front, and a grouping led by former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi. A two-thirds majority of the 275-member parliament is required to form a new government.
The day after the election in Iraq, and in response to Bushs talks, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 279-109 to reaffirm its commitment to victory in Iraq. The resolution said that setting an artificial timetable for troop withdrawal would be fundamentally inconsistent with achieving victory.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military is scaling back its combat forces in the Sunni Triangle in central Iraq, where U.S. troops have been going after supporters of the Baathist party still loyal to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. These operations were in sharp contrast to the situation in most of Iraqthe predominantly Shiite south and Kurdish north where there has been little confrontation with U.S. troops since the 2003 U.S. invasion.
The U.S. military is consolidating its bases in the region as part of a broad strategy to pull American troops out of Iraqi cities to outlying bases, where they can provide backup to the Iraqi army and police, reported the December 17 Washington Post. Since February, U.S. forces have moved out of 30 of their 110 bases in Iraq, transferring 17 of them to Iraqi security forces. The Pentagons plan is to maintain a series of large contingency operating bases, each with an airfield that can accommodate at least one U.S. combat brigade.
Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said December 16 the Pentagon plans to reduce U.S. forces in Iraq by February from 150,000 to the pre-election level of 138,000.
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