President Bush said Monday he hasn’t decided whether to send more troops to Iraq or begin bringing them home, saying he is awaiting the military’s recommendations.
Appearing with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose countrymen turned out by the thousands to show their displeasure with Bush’s staunch support of Israel and the Iraq war, Bush added: “People protest — that’s a good sign.”
The Indonesian leader, a close ally in Bush’s war on terror, called for other nations to do more to help find ways to ease the Iraq conflict. “The global community must be also responsible for solving the problems in Iraq,” not just the United States, Yudhoyono said.
But despite the deep dislike of the war in Indonesia and other Muslim countries, Yudhoyono declined to directly criticize it or call for an immediate end to the U.S. presence in Iraq. He advocated only “a proper timetable” for “the disengagement of U.S. military forces and other coalition forces from Iraq.”
At a press conference, Bush was asked about proposals by some members of Congress, including 2008 presidential hopeful John McCain, R-Ariz., to send more troops to help the roughly 140,000 already there stabilize the country and curb rising sectarian violence.
“I haven’t made any decisions about troop increases or troop decreases, and won’t until I hear from a variety of sources, including our own United States military,” the president replied.
On Monday, The Washington Post reported that a Pentagon review has outlined three options for Iraq: sending in more troops, shrinking the force but staying longer, or pulling out.
Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is at work on a thorough review of options for Iraq, which figured heavily in the loss of control of Congress by Bush’s Republican party earlier this month. As a result, many Democrats are calling for a phased withdrawal — something Bush has refused — and an independent bipartisan panel is compiling recommendations for the president, too.
Bush’s visit came toward the conclusion of an eight-day journey that also included stops in Singapore and Vietnam. Immediately after dinner, he was departing for Hawaii.