U.S., Iraq will set 'horizon' for pullout - In sharp shift, talks will include timing...

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U.S., Iraq will set 'horizon' for pullout - In sharp shift, talks will include timing...

Post by Tiffany on Sat Jul 19, 2008 6:50 am

U. S., Iraq will set ‘horizon’ for pullout
In sharp shift, talks will include timing
Updated: 07/19/08 7:02 AM

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Associated Press
President Bush has reached agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. More Photos

WASHINGTON — President Bush and Iraq’s prime minister have agreed to set a “general time horizon” for bringing more U. S. troops home from the war, a dramatic shift from the administration’s once-ironclad unwillingness to talk about any kind of deadline or timetable.

The announcement Friday put Bush in the position of offering to talk with Iraqi leaders about a politically charged issue that he adamantly has refused to discuss with the Democratic- led Congress at home.

It also could complicate the presidential campaign arguments of Sens. John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, and Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic candidate, who have staked out starkly opposite stands about the unpopular war.

What has changed? The sharp reduction in violence in Iraq — to the lowest level in four years — has made the country’s leaders increasingly confident and more assertive about its sovereignty, giving rise to demands for a specific plan for American forces to leave.

Iraq has leverage because the White House is struggling to salvage negotiations for a long-term agreement covering U. S. military operations there. The White House said it wants to conclude that deal by the end of this month.

Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki talked about the stalled negotiations during a secure video conference Thursday, agreeing “on a common way forward to conclude these negotiations as soon as possible,” a White House statement said.

The two leaders agreed that improvements in security should allow for the negotiations “to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals, such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of U. S. combat forces from Iraq,” the White House said.

Bush repeatedly has vetoed legislation approved by Congress that would have set deadlines for American troop cutbacks.

Friday’s White House statement was intentionally vague and did not specify what kind of timelines were envisioned. That allows Iraqi officials, who are facing elections in the fall, to argue they are not beholden to Washington or willing to tolerate a permanent military presence in Iraq. For Bush, it points the way toward a legal framework for keeping American troops in Iraq after a U. N. mandate expires Dec. 31.

“The agreement will look at goal dates for transition of responsibilities and missions,” said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for Bush’s National Security Council. “The focus is on the Iraqi assumption of missions, not on what troop levels will be.”

In the campaign to elect a new commander in chief, McCain firmly opposes any withdrawal timetable, while Obama pledges to pull out combat troops within 16 months. By talking about a “time horizon,” Bush appeared at odds with McCain and could make his own GOP administration a tougher target for Obama’s anti-war barbs.

McCain issued a statement saying: “Progress between the United States and Iraq on a time horizon for American troop presence is further evidence that the surge has succeeded. . . . If we had followed Sen. Obama’s policy, Iraq would have descended into chaos, American casualties would be far higher, and the region would be destabilized.”

But Ben Rose, a senior adviser to Obama, said, “It’s another indication that the administration is moving toward . . . Sen. Obama’s position on negotiating the removal of our forces as part of our ongoing discussions with the Iraqi government.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Bush wasn’t going far enough. “After rejecting 18 months of attempts by the Democratic majority in Congress to adopt redeployment timetables, the president now proposes a vague general time horizon that falls far short of a commitment to ending our involvement in Iraq,” she said.

Rep. William Delahunt, the Massachusetts Democrat who has led House hearings on the planned agreement with Iraq, said the “time horizon” cited by the White House was “very vague and nebulous.” He also said the agreement taking shape seemed “far less grandiose than what was initially articulated.”

Iraq has proposed requiring U. S. forces to withdraw fully five years after the Iraqis take the lead on security nationwide — though that condition could take years to meet. Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, said this month that Baghdad would not accept any security deal unless it contained specific dates for U. S. troop withdrawals.

So far, the United States has handed control of 10 of 18 provinces to Iraqi officials.


Cool (...all this end of the month talk... Question )


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