"White House Announces ‘General Time Horizon’ For Iraq Withdrawal; Is It ‘Conceding Too Much To The Enemy?’"
When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki first requested a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the Bush administration swiftly shot down his proposal. “Timelines tend to be artificial in nature,” a Pentagon spokesperson remarked. “[W]e’re looking at conditions, not calendars here,” the State Department remarked.
But today, the White House has seemingly embraced a “general time horizon” for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq. The AP reports:
Iraqi officials, in a sign of growing confidence as violence decreases, have been pressuring the United States to agree to a specific timeline to withdraw U.S. forces. President Bush has adamantly opposed a timeline, and the White House said Friday that the timeframe being discussed would not be ”an arbitrary date for withdrawal.” […]
The White House says the two leaders, in a conversation on Thursday, agreed that the accord should include ”a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals, such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.”
The White House’s concession today comes after years of resistance to even considering the prospect of a timetable for withdrawing troops, particularly when it came from Congress. Some lowlights of the administration’s stubborn rhetoric:
“Why would you say to the enemy, you know, here’s a timetable, just go ahead and wait us out? It doesn’t make any sense to have a timetable. You know, if you give a timetable, you’re — you’re conceding too much to the enemy.” [Bush, 6/24/05]
“Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq.” [Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman, 7/16/07]
“I believe artificial timetables of withdrawal would be a mistake. … I will strongly reject an artificial timetable withdrawal and/or Washington politicians trying to tell those who wear the uniform how to do their job.” [Bush, 4/23/07]
“The…attempt to micromanage our commanders is an unwise and perilous endeavor. It is impossible to argue that an unconditional timetable for retreat could serve the security interests of the United States or our friends in the region.” [Vice President Cheney, 4/13/07]
The White House maintains that agreement “doesn’t reflect a shift in the U.S. position.” An Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, reiterated that an agreement should have the goal of “decreas[ing] the number of American forces in Iraq and later withdraw them.”