- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

President Bush this morning said the U.S. can still win in Iraq, despite severe challenges, in a short speech marking the fourth anniversary of the conflict’s beginning.

“Four years after this war began, the fight is difficult, but it can be won. It will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through,” Mr. Bush said, in an eight-minute speech from the Roosevelt Room.

Mr. Bush praised U.S. troops and their families for their service and bravery, and said that his plan to send around 30,000 more soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan is showing early signs of success.

“Success will take months, not days or weeks, yet those on the ground are seeing some hopeful signs,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush said the success or failure of the effort to secure Baghdad won’t be clear for several months. The plan is to give the fledgling Iraqi government breathing room to forge compromise between Shi’a and Sunni factions.

“There will be good days and there will be bad days ahead as the security plan unfolds,” Mr. Bush said.

So far, 3,220 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, and more than 24,000 soldiers have been injured.

The White House has acknowledged recently polls showing growing impatience with the ongoing war in Iraq. Mr. Bush said the Iraqi government has begun to meet benchmarks for “political reconciliation” between Shi’as and Sunnis, and must continue to do so.

But the president also continued to stress what he believes are the fatal consequences of withdrawing from Iraq.

“It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home,” Mr. Bush said. “That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating.”

Mr. Bush also said the Democratic-controlled Congress has “a responsibility” to get a supplemental war funding bill “to my desk without strings and without delay.”

Mr. Bush was briefed in person at 8:30 a.m. by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, joined the briefing by video conference.

At 9:30 a.m., Mr. Bush conducted a secure video conference meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

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