Earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that he was in “negotiations” for “a timetable” for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. The Bush administration initially scoffed at Maliki’s statement, but a little over a week ago, the White House embraced a “general time horizon” for the reduction of U.S. troops. Gareth Porter reports today that this is not the first time Bush and Maliki have clashed over timelines. In fact, soon after Maliki took office in 2006, Bush quashed an Iraqi proposal for a withdrawal timetable:
Nevertheless, Bush signaled his rejection of the Iraqi initiative in his Jun. 14 press conference, deceitfully attributing his own rejection of a timetable to the Iraqi government. “And the willingness of some to say that if we’re in power we’ll withdraw on a set timetable concerns people in Iraq,” Bush declared.
When the final version of the plan was released to the public Jun. 25, the offending withdrawal timetable provision had disappeared. Bush was insisting that the al-Maliki government embrace the idea of a “conditions-based” U.S. troop withdrawal. Khalilzad gave an interview with Newsweek the week the final reconciliation plan was made public in which he referred to a “conditions-driven roadmap”.
In an interview with Der Spiegel recently, Maliki said that 16 months “would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal.”