President Bush is expected to discuss his Iraq strategy in a major speech Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy near Washington. The president will focus on the process of training Iraqis to take over from U.S. and coalition forces.
The president is delivering the speech at a time of waning public support for his Iraq policy, and increasing skepticism in the U.S. Congress, where there are calls for a timetable for troop withdrawals.
Mr. Bush wants to make it clear he will not be swayed by those who want an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces. He says victory against terrorism is imperative, and the United States will stay in Iraq as long as it takes.
Mr. Bush said, "I want to defeat the terrorists and I want our troops to come home. But I do not want them to come home without having achieved victory, and we have got a strategy for victory."
White House officials say Mr. Bush will outline that strategy in his speech at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Press Secretary Scott McClellan says it will be an important address, and describes it as the first of a series of speeches in coming days on the president's plan for victory in Iraq.
All indications are President Bush will vow to stay the course in Iraq, and will announce no changes in policy. Instead, he will talk about progress being made and the need for a continued U.S. military presence.
Mr. Bush was asked about the situation in Iraq on Tuesday during a brief session with reporters in El Paso, Texas, where he toured part of the U.S.-Mexican border. He said an immediate pull-out of American forces in Iraq would be a big mistake, and added he would not be swayed by political considerations.
Mr. Bush said, "People don't want me making decisions based upon politics. They want me to make decisions based upon a recommendation from our generals on the ground."
The president acknowledged there are many voices in Washington calling for a quick withdrawal. He said once again that such action would send the wrong message.
Mr. Bush said, "So my decision will be based on the willingness of our commanders to say the Iraqis are taking more of the fight and therefore the conditions are such that we can reduce our troop presence."
Prior to the speech, the White House plans to release an unclassified document outlining the president's strategy for Iraq. Officials say it will not include any timetables for bringing U.S. troops home, but will say a drawdown could come next year as Iraqis assume more responsibility for their own security.