Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bush Administration Laying Groundwork for Significant Troop Pullout From Iraq

The pressure has been on for the Bush administration to begin drawing down the troops from Iraq. From John Kerry's speech at Georgetown late last month, to the fracas the ensued from Murtha's plan in the House, to Biden's OP/ED in today's WaPO, it's becoming increasing difficult for the Bush administration to ignore the calls.

The L.A. Times reports that "President Bush will give a major speech Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in which aides say he is expected to herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops, which he has identified as the key condition for pulling out U.S. forces."

The administration's pivot on the issue comes as the White House is seeking to relieve enormous pressure by war opponents. The camp includes liberals, moderates and old-line conservatives who are uneasy with the costly and uncertain nation-building effort.

It also follows agreement this week among Iraqi politicians that the U.S. troop presence ought to decrease. Meeting in Cairo, representatives of the three major ethnic and religious groups called for a U.S. withdrawal and recognized Iraqis' "legitimate right of resistance" to foreign occupation. In private conversations, Iraqi officials discussed a possible two-year withdrawal period, analysts said.

The developments seemed to lay the groundwork for potentially large withdrawals in 2006 and 2007, consistent with scenarios outlined by Pentagon planners. The approach also tracks the thinking of some centrist Democrats, such as Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the senior representative of his party on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Some analysts say the emerging consensus might have less to do with conditions in Iraq than the deployment's long-term strain on the U.S. military.



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