WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush, facing Democratic pressure to begin pulling U.S. troops from Iraq, urged Congress on Friday to wait for a crucial assessment of his strategy before making any judgments about the war.
“The stakes in Iraq are too high and the consequences too grave for our security here at home to allow politics to harm the mission of our men and women in uniform,” Bush said in a statement after visiting military officials at the Pentagon.
Bush’s strategy of sending additional troops this year to help control violence in Baghdad and Anbar province will take center stage in Congress in September when lawmakers return from summer recess set to receive a series of reports and hold hearings.
The most crucial of those will be an assessment from Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker who will testify on September 10 at a joint hearing of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees.
The White House is required to submit a report by September 15 on political and security progress in Iraq. That report is being closely watched to see if it prompts a change in strategy.
“This status report comes less than three months since our new strategy became fully operational and will assess what is going well, what can be improved, and what adjustments might be made in the coming months,” Bush said.
“Congress asked for this assessment, and members of Congress should withhold judgment until they have heard it.”
Some Democrats have already called for the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and are likely to renew calls to withdraw American troops because of reports that show slow political progress.
“The president’s surge has failed and there is no end in sight for the war in Iraq. This is what I learned on my summer visit to that ravaged country,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois said in the weekly Democratic radio address to air on Saturday.
A report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to be delivered to Congress on Tuesday, was expected to say Iraq had achieved few of the political and security goals set by Washington.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on that report on September 7.
The New York Times reported that an independent commission established by Congress, headed by Gen. James Jones, the former top U.S. commander in Europe, would present its findings to Congress next week and recommend a major overhaul of Iraq’s national police force to purge corrupt officers.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to comment on the Jones report, but stressed the U.S. military was already working to revamp the Iraqi police and believed it was making progress.