On the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, President Bush acknowledged Wednesday that there is "understandable debate" over the conflict. But the president said he would reject any additional troop withdrawals that could jeopardize security on the ground.
Speaking at the Pentagon to the military's top brass, soldiers and diplomats, Bush said increasing the pace of withdrawal could be a setback to progress made since the so-called "surge" — an infusion of 30,000 additional troops last year.
"Having come so far and achieved so much, we are not going to let this happen," he said, referring to a wider troop drawdown.
The president admitted that "there's an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it.
"The answers are clear to me. Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight America can and must win," he said.
The speech to a largely sympathetic audience marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a conflict that has lasted much longer and cost more lives than most administration officials and the American public had expected.
Nonetheless, Bush said, "The successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable."
Coalition forces have "removed a tyrant, liberated a country and rescued millions from unspeakable horrors," he said.
Democrats, however, used the anniversary to reassert accusations that the administration launched the Iraq invasion based on faulty intelligence, mismanaged the war and failed to put together an exit strategy.
So far, the war has cost about $500 billion, killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,000 American soldiers.