Washington- U.S. President George W. Bush sought to reclaim a public mandate for his Iraq policy Tuesday, telling the American people the war is "vital" to their security and that insurgents there share "the same murderous ideology" as the 9/11 hijackers.
Bush marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. handover of sovereignty to Iraqis with a nationally televised speech in front of rows of men and women in uniform at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which is home to airborne and special operations forces.
The president has flatly rejected calls by a number of Democrats — and even some Republicans — to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.
"Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message" to Iraqi citizens, U.S. troops and insurgents," Bush was quoted as saying by CNN.
He also rejected calls that the United States should send more troops to help put down the insurgency.
"Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight," he said. "Sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself."
Bush asked for patience with the U.S. strategy, which he described as two-pronged — with a military component to combat the insurgency and a political effort to build "the institutions of a free society."
"Our strategy can be summed up this way — as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down," he said.