President Bush says violence in Iraq is at its lowest level in four years and success there appears to be durable.
Speaking at the White House Thursday morning, the president said he is awaiting a recommendation from Gen. David Petraeus, the top American officer in Iraq, on whether more troop reductions are possible.
Bush credited the so-called surge in American troops and an increasing number of Iraqi forces as reasons for the better security.
Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll in Iraq for July stood at 12, according to the independent Web site 1casualties.org. That's the lowest monthly number of American deaths since the war began in March 2003.
Bush says that both Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker caution that the progress is still reversible in the war-torn country. Both American and Iraqi forces are now in a tough fight against al-Qaida in Iraq forces in Diyala province, just north of Baghdad.
The last of the five surge brigades returned home this month, and the president is expecting a recommendation from Petraeus by September on further reductions in American troops, which now stand at 143,000.
President Bush also noted that beginning Friday, troops heading to Iraq and Afghanistan will serve 12 months rather than the current 15-month tour of duty. The shorter time frame does not apply to troops currently serving in those countries.
Those benefiting from the 12-month deployment, according to Army officials, include the following seven units heading to Iraq this fall: The 2nd (Warhorse) Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; the 3rd (Bronco) Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; the 2nd (Dagger) Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; the 3rd (Panther) Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; the 172nd (Black Hawk) Infantry Brigade, Schweinfurt, Germany; the 3rd (Grey Wolf) Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; and the 1st (Arctic Wolves) Brigade (Stryker) Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
Not so lucky is the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas. It deployed this month to Afghanistan and still faces a 15-month rotation.