No Decision on Troop Cuts
CRAWFORD, Tex., March 1 -- President Bush pushed back on Saturday at a senior official in his administration, saying that it remains unsettled whether he will order further reductions in Iraq later this year.
The official, who briefed reporters Friday on the condition of anonymity, said that Bush intends to order troops home after a scheduled drawdown of five combat brigades is completed by the middle of July. "I fully expect there to be more reductions this year, in '08, and so does the president," the official said.
"In terms of troop levels, there is going to be enormous speculation again about what decision I will make," the president said during a news conference, cautioning that he will not decide what to do until after hearing from Gen. David H. Petraeus and senior Pentagon officials. "My sole criterion is, whatever we do, it ought to be in the context of success. . . . What does it take to succeed?"
Many officials expect Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, to recommend a pause of about four to six weeks this summer after the drawdown to assess the situation.
Bush also indicated a concern about ensuring safety at Iraqi provincial elections, contemplated for October. "That ought to be a factor in their recommendation to me," he said.
-- Michael Abramowitz