Bush has 'serious concern' about mounting violence in Iraq
Less than two weeks before crucial mid-term elections in the United States, President George W. Bush has acknowledged growing voter discontent with the war in Iraq.
But in a speech and news conference at the White House on Wednesday, Bush insisted that scaling down American military commitments would be a "victory for the enemy."
Bush said U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies had been taking heavy casualties in recent months but that was no reason to set a timetable for withdrawing troops, as some of his political opponents have demanded.
"There has been heavy fighting, many enemy fighters have been killed or captured and we've suffered casualties of our own," he said.
"This month we've lost 93 American service members in Iraq, the most since October of 2005. During roughly the same period, more than 300 Iraqi security personnel have given their lives in battle.
"Iraqi civilians have suffered unspeakable violence at the hands of the terrorists, insurgents, illegal militias, armed groups and criminals."
This was a matter of "serious concern" for him, the president said.
"I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq. I'm not satisfied either."
But the United States remained committed to victory, he said.
"We are winning and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done."
Rejects fixed timetable for withdrawal
Opinion polls show strong disapproval among American voters for the president's handling of the war and Democratic party candidates have seized upon the conflict as the major campaign issue.
Some have called for a total reassessment of the U.S.-led military campaign, including a timetable for pulling out American troops.
Bush rejected this.
'A fixed timetable for withdrawal in my judgment means defeat, but we are making it clear [to the Iraqi government] that American patience is not unlimited.'-U.S. President George W. Bush
"A fixed timetable for withdrawal in my judgment means defeat," he said, "but we are making it clear [to the Iraqi government] that American patience is not unlimited."
He said the U.S. would set "benchmarks" for the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in assuming control of security, but gave no specifics.
Praising al-Maliki's administration, Bush said the United States respected the prime ministeras an elected ally in its struggle against terrorism.
Military tactics were flexible, he said, but the goal of the United States remained the defeat of the insurgency in Iraq and the restoration of law and order in the country.
"Military commanders on the ground are constantly changing tactics to meet the threat posed by the enemy," Bush said.
With files from the Associated Press