President Bush said Thursday he will suspend the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq this summer, saying he plans to give military leaders time to reevaluate security.
Bush endorsed Gen. David Petraeus' recommendation for a freeze on troop reductions after 20,000 soldiers are withdrawn in July. That will leave about 140,000 U.S. service members in the war zone when the next president takes office.
The president also announced a return to one-year tours of duty for U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq, scaling back the current 15-month deployments as part of an effort to ease strain on the military and boost troop morale.
"The day will come when Iraq is a capable partner of the United States," Bush said Thursday, on the fifth anniversay of the fall of Baghdad. "The day will come when Iraq's a stable democracy that helps fight our common enemies and promote our common interests in the Middle East; and when that day arrives, you'll come home with pride in your success."
Speaking at the White House, the president said he would give Petraeus "all the time he needs" to evaluate further troop withdrawals. Bush's comments came after two days of congressional testimony from Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker this week in which the general called for an open-ended suspension of troop withdrawals that he said could jeopardize "fragile and reversible" progress in Iraq.
The president has consistently opposed setting timetables for withdrawal.
Iraq Spending Bill
Bush also called on Congress to send him a spending bill for Iraq that does not include any timetables for troop withdrawals or exceed the $108 billion he has requested.
Last spring, Congress added $17 billion for programs in areas such as children's health care, homeland security and heating subsidies. Now, Democrats are considering using this year's war funding bill to stimulate the economy with funding for road construction, additional unemployment and food stamps benefits, and a summer jobs program.
Bush said he will veto the spending measure if Congress fails to meet his conditions.
From NPR staff and wire reports