Bush to Endorse Partial Withdrawal From Iraq

President Bush gives a nationwide address Thursday in which he is expected to announce the gradual withdrawal of 30,000 troops from Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, opposition Democrats want more troops to leave sooner.

President Bush spent the day rehearsing his speech on Iraq which aides say has already had more than 20 drafts. White House officials say the president will endorse General David Petraeus' recommendation to bring home 30-thousand reinforcements sent to Iraq earlier this year.

That would leave about 130,000 Americans in Iraq by the middle of 2008.

In testimony before Congress this week, General Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the Bush administration's overall strategy in Iraq would remain largely unchanged once the temporary surge of troops has been reversed.

White House Spokesman Tony Snow says the surge is a success story, because it has allowed U.S. commanders to transfer more responsibility for front-line operations to Iraqi security forces.

"You cannot argue that there has not been a significant change," Snow said. "There has been. And it has been in part a result of the fact that there is a recognition that the United States has stood by and has provided support for Iraqis and at the same time has worked with them to go and develop greater security."

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the troop reinforcements have failed to accomplish what the president said was their primary goal - giving Iraqi leaders time to resolve their differences and pass important laws, including a bill on the distribution of oil income.

"Every objective assessment has shown the surge has failed to bring the Iraqi government closer to political reconciliation," Senator Reid said.

Earlier this year, Senate Democrats failed to get the votes necessary to force Mr. Bush to set a timetable for troop withdrawal, largely because enough members of the president's own political party said his plan should have more time to work.

Senator Reid says Democrats will try again next week by offering amendments to military funding bills to cut troop numbers to below pre-surge levels. He says opposition leaders are reaching out to Republicans who are publicly expressing concerns about the course of the conflict.

"It appears the president is dug in, unwilling to recognize that his strategy is placing all the burden on our military, and it is simply not working," Senator Reid said.

White House spokesman Snow says Democrats should be congratulating U.S. troops for making a real difference in Iraq instead of threatening to cut troop levels further.

"It sounds like an attempt to try to create a political framework for ignoring the success that has taken place as a result of the surge in recent months," Snow said.

A public opinion poll by the Associated Press this week says 58 percent of Americans believe the troop surge has not helped stabilize Iraq. A separate poll by CBS News this month shows 71 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the war.

The speech Thursday gives Mr. Bush another chance to rebuild support for U.S. involvement in Iraq.