Last Thursday, the U.S. endorsed a draft agreement that would remove “combat troops from Iraqi cities by next June and from the rest of the country by the end of 2011.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe both told reporters that the 2011 date was an “aspirational timeline.”
But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki doesn’t view it as “aspirational.” In a speech to tribal leaders today, Maliki said that the U.S. and Iraq have reached an agreement on “a fixed date” for withdrawal:
Iraqi Prime Minister Prime Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday that an agreement had been reached in negotiations on a security pact with the United States to end any foreign military presence in Iraq by the end of 2011.
“There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date which is the end of 2011 to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil,” Maliki said in a speech to tribal leaders in the Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.
As ThinkProgress has previously noted, the Bush administration has spent years demonizing the concept of a timetable for withdrawing troops. In fact, Bush has bashed the very language that Maliki is now using:
“Earlier this week, I vetoed the bill Congress sent me because it set a fixed date to begin to pull out of Iraq, imposed unworkable conditions on our military commanders, and included billions of dollars in spending unrelated to the war.” [Bush, 5/5/07]
“Here is what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently told Congress: Setting a fixed date to withdraw would ‘essentially tell [the enemy] how long they would have to wait until we’re gone.’ [Bush, 3/17/07]
“If we were to listen to the Democrats in Washington, D.C. who say, let’s have a fixed date of withdrawal — by the way, that’s code word for saying, leave before the job is done — we would turn over this important country to radicals and extremists who would plot and plan and attack.” [Bush, 10/26/06]
As they have lurched closer to accepting a fixed timetable for withdrawal, the Bush administration has bent over backwards to avoid describing it as such. First, they claimed they were only discussing a “general time horizon.” Now, it’s “aspirational timelines.” What euphemism will they come up with next?
CNN reports as Maliki saying that “there will be no agreement on a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq unless it includes a ‘specific’ timeline and is not ‘open-ended.’