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Bush Hails Waning Violence In Iraq

President Bush said Friday that U.S. military deaths have fallen to their lowest levels in 19 months and the Iraqi people are slowly "taking back their country" amid the American troop build up there.

Mr. Bush was speaking at a graduation ceremony for new soldiers at Fort Jackson.

Thirty-nine U.S. troops were killed in October -- the lowest number since March of 2006. According to the military, the total number of attacks on U.S. troops hasn't been this low in nearly two years, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod.

"Since the surge of operation began in June, the number of IED attacks per week has declined by half," Mr. Bush told the graduates.

Credit the troop surge, and the coalitions built with Sunni tribal leaders in the western provinces, reports Axelrod.

The question now is whether this is a temporary lull or the beginning of a more peaceful Iraq.

Iraq expert Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution -- a surge supporter -- is cautious, reports Axelrod.

"This is real," he said. "Security is a lot better in Iraq, but it doesn't mean we know how to get our troops out, and it doesn't mean this is a permanent condition."

Mr. Bush said that parts of Iraq continue to be violent and that terrorists remain determined.

"But what they have learned about the United States of America is that we are more determined," Mr. Bush said. "We are more determined to protect ourselves and to help people realize the blessings of freedom."

Mr. Bush said corruption remains a problem and unemployment remains high, but that Iraqi forces have now assumed responsibility in security in eight of Iraq's 18 provinces.

"With our help, the Iraqi people are going on the offense against the enemy. They're confronting the terrorists and they're are taking their country back."

Before he spoke, he took a tour of the school's "fit-to-win course," which requires recruits to negotiate up to twenty obstacles. He addressed about 180 soldiers at the site deep in the piney woods, telling them he was proud of their efforts and that they would help secure a peaceful future for America.

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