Iraq Wants Quick Pullout of U.S. Troops
Iraq’s prime minister stated today that he would like American troops to end their mission in his country soon. This is a sentiment shared by most of the troops themselves and, one presumes, the Bush administration.
Iraq’s prime minister said Wednesday he wants U.S. troops “on their way out” as soon as his government can protect its new democracy. The top American general in the country said he hopes to begin significant withdrawal by next spring. At the same time, in an unannounced visit, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Iraqi security forces should take on more tasks now performed by U.S. troops.
American military commanders have repeatedly expressed hopes in recent months that they could begin major troop reductions next year, depending on the intensity of the insurgency. Even so, Wednesday’s remarks seemed to signal a new willingness to discuss specific ways American troops might exit an increasingly unpopular war in which nearly 2,000 have died.
There was a subdued reaction in Congress. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “I remain concerned about establishing timetables and raising expectations. However, I have not seen the data that the general had before him.” Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican on the committee, said he agreed with Gen. George Casey, the most senior commander of coalition forces in Iraq, and Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari that withdrawal will be possible only when conditions permit. “I’m sure that the security situation at the time will dictate what they need to do,” McCain said.
Al-Jaafari, speaking at a joint news conference with Rumsfeld, said, “The great desire of the Iraqi people is to see the coalition forces on their way out.”
However, comments by Casey drew the most notice. He told reporters that a “fairly substantial” withdrawal of U.S. troops could go ahead in the spring and summer of 2006 if the Iraqi political process is not derailed and the insurgency does not grow.
I’m skeptical whether an endstate appreciably better than would have been possible months ago will exist a year from now. Still, a permanent constitution, a duly elected government, and troops that have been trained ought to be a sufficient basis for turning the show over. At some point, the training wheels must come off.