Monday, November 28, 2005

2 Political Calendars Loom Large

NYT reported In public, President Bush has firmly dismissed the mounting calls to set a deadline to begin a withdrawal from Iraq, declaring eight days ago that there was only one test for when the time is right. "When our commanders on the ground tell me that Iraqi forces can defend their freedom," he told American forces at Osan Air Base in South Korea, "our troops will come home with the honor they have earned." But in private conversations, American officials are beginning to acknowledge that a judgment about when withdrawals can begin is driven by two political calendars - one in Iraq and one here - as much as by those military assessments. The final decision, they said, could well hinge on whether the new Iraqi government, scheduled to be elected in less than three weeks, issues its own call for an American withdrawal.

Certainly if the Iraqi government asks us to leave, we will leave. And the buildup in forces for the December 15 election will mean that there is a good chance that some of those excess forces will be able to be brought home after the first of the year. But unless the Iraqi government asks us to leave, I would not expect a steady drawdown of forces, in numbers as significant as the number brought back after the Dec 15 election.
Last week, for the first time, Iraq's political factions, represented by about 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal. As Mr. Bush ends his Thanksgiving holiday in Texas on Monday, both his own aides and American commanders say, he will begin confronting these sometimes conflicting military and political issues, including the midterm Congressional elections in this country,
I would be very surprised if Bush tries to get all forces out by the midterm elections.
part of a delicate balancing action about how and when to begin extracting American troops from Iraq.

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