(American Forces Press Service) — Citing improved conditions in
Iraq, President Bush announced July 31 that Soldiers deploying there,
effective Aug. 1, will serve 12-month tours of duty.
Army tours in Iraq were
extended from 12 to 15 months in April 2007.
Pentagon civilian and
military officials have expressed the intent to cut Iraq tour lengths
from 15 to 12 months for some time.
Violence in Iraq has
decreased to its lowest levels in four years, which indicates that the
security gains achieved there in recent months may be lasting, Bush
said at the White House.
"Violence is down to
its lowest level since the spring of 2004," Bush said. Reduced
strife in Iraq, he said, has continued for three consecutive months
and is holding steady.
Bush said U.S. Ambassador
to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander
of Multinational Force Iraq, have cautioned him that the improved
security environment in Iraq still is reversible.
However, Crocker and
Petraeus also believe "there now appears to be a degree of
durability to the gains we have made," Bush said.
The success of the surge,
Bush said, is "a significant reason for this sustained
progress" in Iraq. Iraqi security forces are increasing in
capability, he said, noting that 192 Iraqi combat battalions now are
in the fight. More than 110 of these units, he said, are taking the
lead in combat operations against terrorists and extremists.
Iraqi forces proved their
mettle earlier this year, Bush said, during the successful Iraqi
government-led military operations launched against Shiite extremists
in Basra, Amarah and the Sadr City section of Baghdad.
"Because of these
operations, extremists who once terrorized the citizens of these
communities have been driven from their strongholds," Bush said.
As a result, he said,
Crocker "was able to walk the streets of Sadr City (July
That act, Bush noted, was
something that would not have been possible just a few months ago.
This week, the Iraqi government is launching a new military offensive
against al-Qaida terrorists believed to be operating in parts of
Diyala province, Bush said.
"This operation is
Iraqi-led; our forces are playing a supporting role," Bush said.
And during the coming months, he said, "the Iraqis will continue
taking the lead in more military operations across the country."
The improved security
environment has enabled the Iraqis to achieve political progress as
well, the president said, noting that Iraqi lawmakers have passed
several major pieces of legislation this year.
Iraqi leaders also are
preparing for provincial elections slated for later this year, he
Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki recently returned from a European trip, Bush said, where the
Iraqi leader held important diplomatic discussions with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and
Pope Benedict XVI.
The progress in Iraq, Bush
said, has enabled the redeployment of the five Army surge brigades and
three Marine elements as well as the reduction of the length of U.S.
Army combat tours there.
"Beginning (Aug. 1),
troops deploying to Iraq will serve 12-month tours instead of 15-month
tours," Bush said. "This will ease the burden on our forces;
it will make life easier for our wonderful military families."
Meanwhile, the U.S. and
Iraqi governments are making progress developing a strategic
framework agreement covering military-to-military and diplomatic
relations between the two countries, Bush said.
The agreement, he said,
will serve as the foundation for America’s presence in Iraq after
the United Nations resolution authorizing multinational forces in Iraq
expires Dec. 31.
Yet, despite all the recent
achievements made in Iraq, America remains at war with global
terrorists, the president said.
"Al-Qaida is on the
run in Iraq, but the terrorists remain dangerous, and they are
determined to strike our country and our allies again," Bush
said. "In this time of war, America is grateful to all the men
and women who have stepped up forward to defend us."
"understand that we have no greater responsibility than to stop
the terrorists before they launch another attack on our
homeland," the president said. "And every day, they make
great sacrifices to keep the American people safe here at home. We owe
our thanks to all those who wear the uniform and their families who
support them in their vital work. And the best way to honor them is to
support their mission and to bring them home with victory."