On the eve of the meeting between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair today to discuss the next steps in Iraq, Iraq’s new prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki stated for the second time in the past week that Iraqi forces should be able to take over security within 18 months – by the end of 2007.
This is the same period of time outlined in Strategic Redeployment 2.0, the progressive plan for Iraq written by Larry Korb and myself at the Center for American Progress.
Signs are that Bush and Blair will avoid setting down a clear marker for withdrawing troops – yesterday White House spokesman Tony Snow pushed back against suggestions that President Bush might finally listen to the Iraqis and set a timeline.
But the call for a timeline for withdrawing troops should not come as a surprise. This is exactly what most Iraqis want. Last fall, Iraqi leaders from across the ethnic and sectarian spectrum called for a timetable for troop withdrawals at a conference in Cairo.
These leaders are voicing the opinions of their constituents – a recent poll found that 70 percent of Iraqis support withdrawing U.S.-led forces by the end of 2007.