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At White House Meeting, No Big Changes on Iraq
Benchmarks have been part of the U.S. policy in Iraq for months, said Dan Bartlett, a top aide to Bush.
"Implicit in that is that if they are not achieving the benchmarks, we are going to have to make changes accordingly," Bartlett said, adding that troop withdrawals or other dramatic changes in U.S. policy are not being contemplated.
Casey has been working on a series of benchmarks for handing over to the Iraqi government control of both military bases and entire areas of the country. At a recent news conference, Casey said he expects six or seven more provinces in Iraq to come under full control of the government by the end of the year, although Rumsfeld said Friday that "there's no doubt" some of Casey's projections will not be met.
Currently, the Iraqi government has control of two of the country's 18 provinces, meaning that local police can keep order without routine help from the U.S.-led military coalition.
"We are constantly developing new tactics to achieve our goal," Jones said. "We've been coordinating with the Iraqis for months on a series of measures they can take to assume more control of their country."
Diane Farrell, a Democratic candidate for Congress, gave her party's national radio response to Bush, saying: "To be blunt, the president and the Republican Congress have been wrong on Iraq and wrong to keep their failed strategy. . . . An arbitrary departure date could be dangerous, but real goals for the new Iraqi government and its army are necessary."
Farrell, who is running against Rep. Christopher Shays in Connecticut, said Democrats will hold Bush accountable for the war in Iraq if they gain control of either the Senate or House in midterm elections next month.
Yesterday's meeting took place amid a significant increase in violence around Iraq. At least 78 U.S. troops have been killed so far in Iraq this month -- the highest daily rate since January 2005. Attacks in Baghdad have surged 43 percent since midsummer, despite the presence of thousands of U.S. troops, while nationally more than 100 Iraqis a day are being killed, according to the United Nations.
U.S. commanders are trying to decide whether to send more troops to Iraq.
Bush said in his radio address that the increase in violence is attributable in part to a more aggressive posture being taken by U.S. troops. Still, he said, Americans have faced tough battles before.
"In World War II and the Cold War, earlier generations of Americans sacrificed so that we can live in freedom," he said. "This generation will do its duty as well."
Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson contributed to this report.