Huffpost Politics

Bush: We Can't Jeopardize Gains in Iraq

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Remarks of President George Bush
5 Year Anniversary of Iraq War
The Pentagon
Arlington, VA

Read more about Bush's speech marking the five-year-anniversary of the Iraq War below this video excerpt.

WASHINGTON — Five years after launching the invasion of Iraq, President Bush strongly signaled Wednesday that he won't order troop withdrawals beyond those already planned because he refuses to "jeopardize the hard-fought gains" of the past year.

As anti-war activists demonstrated around downtown Washington, the president spoke at the Pentagon to mark the war anniversary. He gave a strong defense of his decision to go to war and continue it and linked the fighting there to the global battle against al-Qaida.

"The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary, and it is just. And with your courage the battle in Iraq will end in victory," he told an audience of Pentagon brass, soldiers and diplomats.

Bush made some of his most expansive claims of success in the fighting there. He said the increase of 30,000 troops that he ordered to Iraq last year has turned "the situation in Iraq around." He also said that "Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al Qaida out."

"The surge ... has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror," the president said. "We are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology, and his terror network. And the significance of this development cannot be overstated."

Bush appeared to be referring to recent cooperation by local Iraqis with the U.S. military against the group known as al-Qaida in Iraq, a mostly homegrown, though foreign-led, Sunni-based insurgency. Experts question how closely _ or even whether _ the group is connected to the international al-Qaida network. As for bin Laden, he is rarely heard from and is believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

The U.S. has about 158,000 troops in Iraq. That number is expected to drop to 140,000 by summer in drawdowns meant to erase all but about 8,000 troops from last year's increase.

Faster and larger withdrawals could unravel recent progress, Bush said.

"Having come so far and achieved so much, we are not going to let this happen," he said.