Gen. David Petraeus, top U.S. commander in Iraq, told Congress this week that he is recommending to President Bush that the United States “pause” the draw down of troops in Iraq this July for at least 45 days in order to assess the security situation there.
Bush has now accepted Petraeus’s recommendation, “leaving open the possibility that about 140,000 U.S. servicemen and women will still be in the war zone when the next president takes office.”
But there is one important decision-maker that Petraeus and Bush don’t seem to be listening to: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The AP reports that Maliki told Bush yesterday that he “disagrees” with Petraeus’s recommendation “citing the growing capabilities of Iraq’s own security forces”:
The prime minister told Bush during a 20-minute telephone conversation on Wednesday that Iraqi security forces are capable of carrying out their duties and U.S. troops should be pulled out as the situation permits, according to a senior government adviser who sat in on the phone conversation. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the confidential details.
Bush actually agrees with Maliki. Last month, Bush said the Iraqi government’s offensive against Shi’ite militias in the southern city of Basra “shows the progress the Iraqi security forces have made during the surge.”
Moreover, Bush has also said that if Maliki wants U.S. troops to leave Iraq, then “we would leave”:
BUSH: We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It’s their government’s choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave. […] We are there at their request. […] but if they were to make the request, we wouldn’t be there.
Bush has consistently expressed confidence in Maliki’s leadership and judgement saying he had seen “the strength of his character,” that he is a “strong leader,” and a “good guy” with “deep determination.”
If Bush has so much confidence in Maliki’s character and leadership abilities, then perhaps he should take his advice.