Cheney calls terror fight decades-long

WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States must be prepared to fight the war on terror for decades to bring peace to Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday.

By Joe Raedle, AFP/Getty Images

"Like other great duties in history, it will require decades of patient effort, and it will be resisted by those whose only hope for power is through the spread of violence," said Cheney. "As the people of that region experience new hope, progress, and control over their own destiny, we will see the power of freedom to change our world and a terrible threat will be removed."

Cheney did not specify how long he believes U.S. troops will have to stay in Iraq, just as other administration officials have avoided providing a timetable. Some military commanders have expressed hopes that substantial American withdrawals could begin next spring or summer, though they have edged away from such comments in recent days.

Speaking to the Association of the U.S. Army, Cheney joined the chorus of Bush administration officials - including the president - who have tried in recent days to bolster an American public that has grown increasingly weary of the war in Iraq. He told the audience filled with military members that the only way terrorists can win is if the United States "lost our nerve and abandoned our mission."

He also echoed Bush administration assertions that Iraqi security forces are growing, and are increasingly able to take charge. His comments come just a week after the top commander in Iraq told Congress that the number of Iraqi army battalions capable of fighting without U.S. help had dropped from three to one.

"One of the challenges we faced was that after clearing out terrorists, there weren't always enough trained Iraqi forces to retain control," Cheney said. Now, he said, Iraqi forces control more parts of the country than at any time in the past two years.