Bush Says Shorter Deployments in Iraq Will 'Ease the Burden on Our Forces'

President Bush said progress in Iraq resulting from last year's troop surge has allowed U.S. forces to come home, and troop deployments to be shortened.

The length of tours of duties for forces serving in Iraq will fall from 15 months to 12 months beginning Friday. The tours had been extended in spring 2007 as part of the troop surge as a way to increase the number of active-duty personnel who could be deployed to Iraq.

"This will ease the burden on our forces, and it will make life easier for our wonderful military families," Bush said, speaking to reporters at the White House Thursday morning.

Bush said July "has been a month of encouraging news from Iraq. Violence is down to its lowest level since the spring of 2004, and we're now in our third consecutive month with reduced violence levels holding steady.'

While his top deputies in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker, say "progress is still reversible," they are saying there appears "to be a degree of durability to the gains we have made," Bush said.

Last year's troop surge was one reason for the success, Bush said, but so is "the increasing capability of the Iraqi forces." He said he expected more Iraqi forces in the future to be taking the lead in the fight against Al Qaeda.

Bush said Petraeus will be giving him troop level recommendations later this year, "including further reductions in our combat forces as conditions permit."

Bush briefly mentioned the strategic framework agreement between the United States and Iraq, saying officials are "making progress in our discussion with Prime Minister (Nouri Al) Maliki's government" on the matter. The agreement, he said, "will serve as the fondation for America's presence in Iraq" following the Dec. 31 expiration of the U.N. resolution authorizing multinational forces in Iraq.