Steven Lee Meyers and Sabrina Tavernise of The New York Times kick off the coverage with a story on Bush's early morning announcement and the growing consensus, "though a cautious one," that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Bush announced that security gains meant that more troops could come home soon. (Just in time for the election!) Officials in Baghdad and the Pentagon now speak of "a degree of stability" that seems to be sticking. Bush also highlighted his decision to reduce the length of Army tours from 15 months to one year, which should please the soldiers and their families. Meanwhile, back in Iraq, the American military disclosed that it had killed three unarmed people northwest of Samarra on Wednesday. A fourth was injured. And in Mosul, a bomb killed three policemen.
John D. McKinnon of the Wall Street Journal covers the announcement and adds that the troop reductions would be in the 3,500 to 7,000 range, based on recommendations from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the outgoing commander of Coalition forces in Iraq. McKinnon also gets explicitly political, saying the comments "appeared to reflect the administration's hopes that it can build on recent improvement in public opinion on Iraq. Perceptions of how the war is going could be crucial for Republicans' chances in the 2008 election, and especially presidential candidate John McCain, who is closely identified with the 'surge' strategy." The U.S. death toll in July was 10, the lowest of the war.
USA Today's Tom Vanden Brook ties the reductions in Iraq to possibly deployments in Afghanistan, where attacks are up 40 percent compared with last year.
Amit R. Paley of the Washington Post leads with the low death toll for his story today, reporting that the death toll was five combat deaths for U.S. forces, the lowest of the war. (The total is 13 if you include non-combat-related deaths and two bodies discovered.) Paley doesn't add much news to the general narrative of the day -- there's not much news going on, really -- but he does provide a roundup of recent violence in Baghdad and Kirkuk as a reminder that Iraq can still bite.
Sabrina Tavernise of the Times also leads with the low death toll (a staple of top-of-the-month stories now), and adds that Iraqi deaths declined slightly for July, too. A total of 865 civilians and security forces were killed in July, down from 975 in June. In Kirkuk, 20 provincial council members, all Kurds, voted to become part of the Kurdish enclave to their northeast. It was a non-binding vote, and Arab and Turkmen council members boycotted it, but it's symbolic, nonetheless. Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement in another attempt to clear his Mahdi Army's name.
Finally, Tom A. Peter of the Christian Science Monitor writes about a new sports center in Baghdad in a effort to keep kids out of trouble. Founded by former Iraqi athletes, the Adhamiyah-based center will work a bit like inner-city sports clubs do in America. The U.S. military has kicked in $300,000 to repair the facilities and fund programs, while a U.S. Army civil affairs team is in the process of adding another $200,000 in projects.