NYT: Iraq panel to recommend troop pullback

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RAW STORY
Published: Wednesday November 29, 2006

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A much-discussed independent panel will recommend that U.S. troops in Iraq be withdrawn, according to an article that will appear on the front page of The New York Times.

"The bipartisan Iraq Study Group reached a consensus on Wednesday on a final report that would call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stopped short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal," write David E. Sanger and David S. Cloud, citing sources close to the group.

The report by the panel, led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, will be given next week to the President. Sanger and Cloud indicate that the report avoids "a specific timetable, which has been opposed by Bush, but [makes] it clear that the American troop commitment should not be open-ended."

The article says that Bush will be urged to start troop withdrawal soon, the "implicit message" being that it should begin in 2007. As for the American combat brigades presently in Iraq, it was unclear whether they "would be brought home, or simply pulled back to bases in Iraq or in neighboring countries."

Excerpts from the article follow...

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...[P]eople involved in the debate, representing different points of view, agreed to outline [the report's] conclusions in broad terms to address what they said might otherwise be misperceptions about the findings. Some said their major concern was that the report might be too late.

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As described by the people involved in the deliberations, the bulk of the report by the Baker-Hamilton group focused on a recommendation that the United States devise a far more aggressive diplomatic initiative in the Middle East than Bush has been willing to attempt so far, including direct engagement with Iran and Syria. Initially, those contacts might take place as part of a regional conference on Iraq or broader Middle East peace issues like the Israeli-Palestinian situation, but they would ultimately involve direct, high-level talks with Iran and Syria.

Bush has rejected such contacts until now, and he has also rejected withdrawal, declaring in Riga, Latvia, on Tuesday that while he will show flexibility, "there's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull the troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete."

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