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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 29, 2005
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En route El Paso, Texas
8:16 A.M. MST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, everybody. I want to first run through the day real quick, and then talk a little bit about tomorrow's speech for you all.
First of all, when we land we're going to be in the El Paso sector and the President will be touring the El Paso sector, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Traveling with us today are Secretary Chertoff and Attorney General Gonzales - they're up visiting with the President right now. And then following the tour, I expect the President to make some remarks to you all about our immigration - our comprehensive approach to immigration reform.
Then from there we'll be going to Denver and the President will be participating in a fundraiser for the re-election of Congresswoman Musgrave. And that's expanded press pool coverage. Following that, he has a meeting with one family of a fallen soldier, and then we'll be returning back to D.C. this evening.
Q Iraq or Afghanistan?
MR. McCLELLAN: Iraq, yes. In terms of tomorrow, it's an important speech. It's the first in a series of speeches that the President will be making between now and the December 15th elections about our plan for victory in Iraq. We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy to defeat the terrorists and those trying to prevent democracy from advancing in Iraq. And the President believes that the American people should have a clear understanding of our strategy. And that means how we see the enemy and how we define and achieve victory. So as part of the speech tomorrow, we are going to be releasing a document called the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." It's an unclassified version of the plan that we've been pursuing in Iraq, and it will be made available to the American people. I think we'll also be posting it on our website, as well.
Q When is that -
MR. McCLELLAN: Early tomorrow morning is the goal, before the networks go on the air.
Tomorrow's speech, as I said, it's one in a series of speeches the President will be giving between now and the December 15th elections. Tomorrow's speech will focus in great detail on one element of the strategy, and that is the training of Iraqi security forces. One important part of success is based on the training and capability of the Iraqi security forces. And the President will discuss the training not just in terms of numbers and capability, but also in terms of the territory that Iraqi forces are controlling. Iraqi forces are controlling more and more territory, and the President will talk about that in his remarks tomorrow.
He will touch on the other elements of the strategy, the political side and the economic side, but he will really spend a good bit of time focusing tomorrow on the security side, specifically the training of those Iraqi security forces. And he'll talk about where the progress is being made and how progress is being made. I noticed today there was an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal by Senator Lieberman, who has just returned from Iraq, and he talked about the real progress that is being made on the ground in Iraq and talked about his visit there, his travel there and his visits with Iraqi officials and his meetings with commanders, as well.
And I think the President will also talk about how our strategy is a dynamic one. It's a dynamic strategy that is based on adapting to the enemy and adapting to conditions on the ground. It's important that our tactics be flexible and dynamic and that as conditions change on the ground, we change with them. And so he'll talk about how the training of Iraqi forces has changed and adapted to meet the circumstances on the ground, in his remarks. And he'll talk about the progress that our commanders are seeing, in terms of the training of Iraqi security forces.
And I expect he'll talk about as the Iraqi security forces increase their experience and capability and the Iraqis make progress on the political front, then we will be able to reduce the number of our troops in Iraq, as well, but that that will be based on conditions on the ground. It's a conditions-based approach. I expect the President will argue against setting arbitrary timetables or a precipitous withdrawal, and he'll talk about that in the remarks, as well.
So that's really the focus of the remarks for tomorrow. I expect in other speeches that the President will focus more on other elements of that strategy. As I mentioned, there are really three elements to our strategy: the political side, the economic side and the security side.
Q The President's other speeches, do we know roughly when, where? MR.
McCLELLAN: We'll keep you posted. Between now and the December 15th elections.
Q How many? Roughly how many?
MR. McCLELLAN: This is the first in a series; I'd just leave it at that.
Q Is the President going to talk specific numbers, in terms of U.S. troop levels?
MR. McCLELLAN: What do you mean, "talk specific numbers"?
Q In recent days the Pentagon has said post-election, assuming everything goes okay, they're going to draw down by -
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's an important point. I mean, we have increased our troop levels ahead of the elections to address concerns about an increase in violence that might come around at the time of the elections by those who are seeking to stop the advance of democracy in Iraq. And I think we've always expected that as we get by those elections and conditions on the ground change, that we'll be able to reduce some of those numbers.
Q But he's not going to go beyond that, talking about other units that will come home?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think he'll talk about it in the way I described it. He'll talk about it in terms of as the conditions on the ground permit and as the Iraqi forces are able to take control of more territory and the political process moves forward, then we'll be able to lower the number of troops we have in Iraq. In 2006, I think, you know, the expectation is that conditions will be changing on the ground. We've been making real progress with the training of Iraqi security forces and that conditions will permit us to be able to reduce our presence.
But, again, it will always be based on conditions on the ground, and it will be based on what our commanders say. We will look to our commanders - and I think that's one thing the President will emphasize in his remarks, that it's our commanders who should be determining what our troop levels are in the country, and they make those decisions based on the conditions and circumstances on the ground and that those decisions should not be made by politicians in Washington.
Q This document that's coming out, can you just tell us a little bit more about what might be in that, that we haven't seen before?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think just, generally, it'll outline our strategy for victory in Iraq and talk about the three different elements within that strategy that I just mentioned. Beyond that, wait until it comes out.
Q Who wrote the -
MR. McCLELLAN: Our National Security Council, obviously, has taken a lead in this effort. But, I mean, various people within the White House have been involved in this. The Department of Defense obviously has been very involved in it, as well. As I said, it's an unclassified version of the plan that we have had in place and the plan that we've been pursuing.
Q Are we going to be shocked by anything in it? I mean, the President has outlined the strategy before, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: What's that?
Q Are we going -
MR. McCLELLAN: I think one purpose of providing this document is so that the American people can have a clear sense of our strategy for success in Iraq, and so that they can see how we look at the enemy, the nature of the enemy that we're facing and they can see how we define success in Iraq and how we are going about achieving victory in Iraq. And that's an important thing for the American people to be able to look at and understand.
Q Might he take questions today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't really talked to him about it. I think it's set up as kind of just make some brief remarks to you all, but let me check.
Q Thank you.
END 8:25 A.M. MST