Improving security across Iraq and a sustained reduction in the levels of violence are making it possible for the United States to reduce its military forces in Iraq by nearly eight-thousand personnel by 2009.
"While the enemy in Iraq is still dangerous, we have seized the offensive, and Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly capable of leading and winning the fight," said President George Bush. "As a result, we have been able to carry out a policy of 'return on success' – reducing American combat forces in Iraq as conditions on the ground continue to improve," he said.
Earlier this month, President Bush announced the withdrawal of 3,400 combat support personnel over the next several months. That drawdown will include personnel assigned to aviation units, explosive ordnance teams, combat and construction engineer units, military police and logistical support units. By November a U.S. Marine Corps battalion now serving in Anbar province will be withdrawn. And in February the U.S. Army will withdraw another combat brigade.
President Bush noted that on September 1, Iraqi forces assumed control of security for Anbar province. "Iraqi forces are now leading security operations across Anbar, with American troops in an 'overwatch' role," he said. "This amounts to about eight-thousand additional American troops returning home without replacement," said Mr. Bush.
The drawdown will leave about 130,000 U.S. personnel in Iraq by next March from a current level of approximately 146,000 troops. At its peak during the surge, the United States had 160,000 personnel in Iraq.
The U.S. will continue negotiating with the Iraqi government on a Strategic Framework Agreement that will reflect shared U.S.-Iraqi political, economic, cultural, and security interests.
The U.S. and Iraq are also continuing to negotiate a bilateral agreement that will govern the presence of the U.S. defense personnel in Iraq after the expiration of the current UN mandate for the Multinational-Force in Iraq. Such agreements typically address everything from legal jurisdiction over foreign forces to more routine issues like postal services and exit and entry procedures. The U.S. has more than eighty of these agreements with other countries.
"While the progress in Iraq is still fragile and reversible," said President Bush, "there now appears to be a degree of durability to the gains we have made."