Report: Top general may propose pullbacks for US troops in Iraq
September progress report being written by White House
A September report on military and political progress in Iraq is expected to recommend pulling back some US troops, although officials in the Bush administration and the military have acknowledged that political benchmarks in Iraq have not been achieved, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Although President Bush has long said the report will represent the views of Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of US troops in Iraq, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, it is actually being prepared by the White House with input from officials throughout the government, according to the Times.
House Democratic Caucus chairman Rahm Emanuel was highly critical of the White House involvement in preparing the report.
"After years of slogans and soundbites Americans deserve an even-handed assessment of conditions in Iraq," Rep. Emanuel (D-IL) said. "Sadly, we will only receive a snapshot from the same people who told us the mission was accomplished and the insurgency was in its last throes. We've spent hundreds of billions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in Iraq. An honest report from our generals and diplomats about the status of the war isn't too much to ask."
Earlier this year, Petraeus said political reconciliation between Iraq's Shiite-led government and its Sunni minority would be vital to secure and stabilize the country.
"Clearly they have to show that they are willing to reconcile and that they can make some progress in some legislative areas to give hope to some of the people there," Petraeus told IraqSlogger in May. Although he predicted at the time that there would not be "anything definitive" in next month's report, Petraeus said, "certainly we'll have some indicators on the political side in Iraq.
Those indicators will be bleak, the Times reports, and strategies to deal with the lack of progress has frustrated some in the White House.
"Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress," report Julian E. Barnes and Peter Spiegel in the LA Times. "How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq's warring sects has created some tension within the White House."
Despite the lack of political progress, Petraeus is expected to recommend removing American troops parts of the country where commanders believe security has improved, the Times reports. Petraeus's expected plan calls for commanders to turn over security in less-violent areas to Iraqi forces and withdraw.
The Times notes, however, that Petraeus's plan would not necessarily spell the end of the "surge" by reducing the overall number of troops in the country. Troops could be redeployed to quell violence in other parts of Iraq or become a reserve force to counter any rise in violence.
Some military commanders told the Times they disagreed with the expected plan to withdraw troops from stable areas. Marine Maj. Gen. Walter E. Gaskin, who commands US troops in Al Anbar provence, said American forces should stay to help Iraqi security forces keep militants out.
"It takes time to gain experience," he said. "I see that experience happening every day, but I don't see it happening overnight. I believe it's another couple of years in order to get them to do that -- and that's not a political answer, that's a military answer."
Excerpts from article:
According to the officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus is expected to propose the partial pullback in his September status report to Congress, when both the war's critics and supporters plan to reassess its course. Administration officials who support the current troop levels hope Petraeus' recommendations will persuade Congress to reject pressure for a major U.S. withdrawal.
The expected recommendation would authorize U.S. commanders to withdraw troops from places that have become less violent and turn over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces.
But it does not necessarily follow that Petraeus would call for reducing the overall number of troops in the country. Instead, he could move them to another hot spot, or use them to create a reserve force to counter any rise in violence.
"That is the form of the recommendation we are anticipating him to come back with," a senior administration official said. But referring to the redeployment options, the official added, "I just don't know which of those categories he is going to be in."
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