Thursday Night, President Bush spoke to the nation about the progress in Iraq and the recommendations of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. In light of their testimonies and the reports they presented, the President acknowledged that there is an opportunity for Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, to come together and chart a course towards continued success.

After only three months of the new counterinsurgency strategy, our brave men and women in uniform have made substantial gains in security. Moreover, their efforts have paved the way for the beginning of political reconciliation – particularly at the local level. During his testimony, Ambassador Crocker gave an honest assessment of what political progress has been made and what still needs to be done to foster a lasting reconciliation that will complement the new security situation. The Ambassador made it clear that the trend of political success is positive and the resilience of the Iraqi people to build a free and safe society has remained strong in the face of considerable danger.

In his speech, the President continued to put Operation Iraqi Freedom in the context of the larger Global War on Terrorism. There are some who deny that we are facing the same network of extremists and terrorists in Iraq that we are facing in Afghanistan and around the world. This mentality is shortsighted. The struggle for a secure and prosperous Iraq is as much in our national security interests as finding Osama Bin Laden. Allowing safe havens to emerge in Iraq will only give Al Qaeda and other militant extremists a home base from which to launch terrorist attacks around the world. We did not drive Al Qaeda from their camps in Afghanistan only to let them build new ones in Iraq.

Our strategy in Iraq has evolved based on conditions on the ground and the advice of our commanders in the field. The President’s decision to make some troop reductions at the end of this year and more next year has come after consultation with our military, our intelligence and national security teams, and it is based on the progress we are seeing in Iraq. These are not political decisions, and they never should be.

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, a 31 year veteran of the Army National Guard, and with four sons in the military, I understand the sacrifices our troops and their families continue to make while protecting American families and facing our enemies abroad. I am grateful for their dedication. We should continue to honor these brave troops and ensure that Congress makes decisions based on facts on the ground, not polls in the paper.