Press Conference: “As Soon as Possible” Means Not Very Soon at All

President Bush on when troops will come home from Iraq:

As soon as possible. And as soon as possible depends upon the Iraqis being able to fight and do the job. … General Petraeus, as you know, is in charge of training. [He is] upbeat about what they’re seeing with the Iraqi troops.

He may be upbeat, but our government watchdogs are not. Though more than a year and a half has passed since Gen. John Abizaid first announced plans to build Iraq’s security force, the Government Accountability Office reported last month that coalition leadership has still failed “to develop a system to assess the readiness of Iraqi military and police forces so they can identify weaknesses and provide them with effective support.” Moreover, the high number of security forces frequently touted by senior White House officials “overstates the number actually serving,” probably by “tens of thousands.” As one training supervisor, Army Staff Sgt. Craig E. Patrick, admitted recently: “It’s all about perception, to convince the American public that everything is going as planned and we’re right on schedule to be out of here. I mean, they can [mislead] the American people, but they can’t [mislead] us. These guys are not ready.”