Earlier this week, President Bush endorsed Gen. Petraeus’s plan for a “pause” in troop withdrawals, eagerly stating Petraeus could have “all the time he needs” before reducing American forces further. Yesterday, in his interview with ABC, Bush tried to backtrack on that comment, reports the New York Times:
Mr. Bush’s remark that the general could have as much time as he needed has been widely interpreted as a signal that the White House expects no further cuts after July. But in the interview, the president suggested that he thought his words were being misinterpreted.
“You know, sometimes people read what they want to in the president’s words,” he said. “My statement was, in essence, this: if General Petraeus needs 45 days, he’ll have 45 days.”
Mr. Bush went on to say that he hoped “conditions will enable us to return on success,” the phrase his administration has coined for its policy of bringing American troops home based on conditions there.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said this week that he abandoned “hope” of there being fewer than 100,000 troops in Iraq by the end of this year.