Monday, July 07, 2008

Iraq: al Qaeda so licked we'll consider troop withdrawal schedule

From Bloomberg: Iraq Considers Timetable for U.S. Troop Withdrawal

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki plans to set a timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of an agreement that will lay out the framework for the presence of foreign soldiers next year, Agence France-Presse reported.

This is the first time that the government in
Baghdad has set a pullout deadline as a condition for a promised new deal with the U.S. for a military presence beyond 2008, AFP said.

``The direction we are taking is to have a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or to have a timetable for their withdrawal,'' AFP reported, citing a statement from al-Maliki's office. His comments were made in a speech to Arab ambassadors during a trip to the United Arab Emirates, AFP said.

``The negotiations are still continuing with the American side, but in any case the basis for the agreement will be respect for the sovereignty of Iraq,'' AFP cited al-Maliki as saying.

Via AFP, the US response:

Asked about the prime minister's comments, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters: "With respect to timetables I would say the same thing I would say as respects to the security situation -- it is dependent on conditions on the ground."

Whitman said the United States had made clear "that we have no long term desires to have forces permanently stationed in Iraq."

"But timelines tend to be artificial in nature," he said. "In a situation where things are as dynamic as they are in Iraq, I would just tell you, it's usually best to look at these things based on conditions on the ground."