US will not withdraw from Iraq prematurely - Bush
US President George W. Bush on Saturday said the United States will not lose its nerve and prematurely withdraw troops from Iraq, which he said would betray that country as its leaders finish a critical act of writing a constitution.
"The terrorists cannot defeat us on the battlefield. The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve. That will not happen on my watch," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
The president has been trying to shore up public support as polls show declining approval of his handling of Iraq amid mounting American casualties.
A group of protesters led by the mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq is camped out near his ranch in Texas where Bush is on vacation. Her vigil has drawn substantial media attention.
"Withdrawing our troops from Iraq prematurely would betray the Iraqi people, and would cause others to question America's commitment to spreading freedom and winning the war on terror," Bush said in the radio address.
"So we will honor the fallen by completing the mission for which they gave their lives, and by doing so we will ensure that freedom and peace prevail," he said.
Cindy Sheehan, who is keeping vigil near the president's ranch, says she blames Bush for her son Casey's death in Iraq in April 2004. She and her supporters hope if they speak out, more Americans will demand that U.S. troops be brought home.
But Bush says pulling American troops out before Iraqi security forces can fully take over would ultimately endanger America's security at home.
"We're staying on the offensive in Iraq, Afghanistan and other fronts in the war on terror, fighting terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home," he said.
Iraqi leaders are working to meet an August 15 deadline to establish a constitution, which Bush says will be a key step toward the country becoming self-reliant.
"The establishment of a democratic constitution is a critical step on the path to Iraqi self-reliance. Iraqis are taking control of their country, building a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself," he said. "And we're helping Iraqis succeed."