Once again, it appears as if the Bush administration is going to do the wrong thing for purely political reasons:
Even as debate over the Iraq war continues to rage, signs are emerging of a convergence of opinion on how the Bush administration might begin to exit the conflict.
In a departure from previous statements, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week that the training of Iraqi soldiers had advanced so far that the current number of U.S. troops in the country probably would not be needed much longer.
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.
There is no chance in hell that the Iraqi army, who just got their first tank, and is undertrained and understaffed and underequipped, is prepared to take over operations. If they are, fine. But I have my doubts:
As recently as late September, senior U.S. military commanders said during a congressional hearing that just one Iraqi battalion, about 700 soldiers, was considered capable of undertaking combat operations fully independent of U.S. support. Administration officials now dismiss that measure of readiness, saying more Iraqi units are able to conduct advanced operations each day.
A former top Pentagon official who served during Bush’s first term said he believed there was a “growing consensus” on withdrawing about 40,000 troops before next year’s congressional election. That would be followed by further substantial pullouts in 2007 if it became clear that Iraqi forces could contain the insurgency.
While drawing down 40k of 160k troops over the next year is certainly not cutting and running, I think it is pretty clear this decision is being based on domestic political considerations rather than facts on the ground.
Which, of course, makes this administration no better than the cynical Democrats who have been using this issue for their own political reasons. Worse, some might argue, since this adminstration led us into this war, and now seems unwilling to win it.