Based on all this and on the further progress we believe we can achieve over the next few months, I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve.
Petraeus claimed that “progress” in Iraq allows the United States to begin withdrawing troops. But in reality, security and political progress in Iraq is nonexistent. Petraeus, who has said he wants to stay in Iraq for 9-10 years, is in fact reducing troop levels next summer because the escalation has overstretched and overburdened the military to its breaking point.
Under Petraeus’s plan, troops will be finishing this “token” withdrawal right before the Nov. 2008 elections, and the administration appears to be planning to take political advantage of this fact.
In July, Rove spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival and reportedly stated, “Iraq may not be a big issue in the next election because…troops will be coming home by then.”
But while the Bush administration is going to withdraw a nominal amount of troops before the elections, it then plans to continue staying the course. The Aspen Daily News reported in July on more of the White House’s strategy:
Overall, Rove said the goal was to make the “U.S. combat footprint smaller,” but he also surmised later in the interview that when the next president is sworn in on Jan. 21, 2009, plenty of American troops would still be in Iraq.
Recall that Bush’s strategy on Iraq is to “get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence,” and to ultimately “stay longer.”
On Thursday, President Bush will address the nation on Iraq and announce that he will be, not surprisingly, accepting Petraeus’s drawdown recommendations.
UPDATE: Today when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked Petraeus whether it was “highly likely that “a year from now we’re going to have at least 100,000 troops in Iraq?,” Petraeus replied unequivocally: “That is probably the case. Yes, sir.”