Bush and Maliki talk about withdrawal from Iraq

When President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki talked on Thursday — a secure
video conversation that wasn’t disclosed until today — one of the
things the White House said they talked about was “a general time
horizon for meeting aspirational goals.”

Translation: a date for meeting the goal of handing over security responsibilities
from the U.S. troops to the Iraqis and “the further reduction of U.S.
combat forces from Iraq.”

Wait a minute.

Hasn’t
the president been adamant: There would be no bright-line deadline for
pulling American forces out of Iraq, because Al Qaeda there or other
opponents would just bide their time and wait to attack until the U.S.
had pulled out?

The
point was presented today by reporters to Scott Stanzel, the deputy
White House press secretary traveling with Bush on a Western political
fundraising trip that ended at the president’s home in Crawford, Texas.

There’s a difference, the spokesman said.

“These
are aspirational goals, not arbitrary timelines based on political
expediency. So we want to get to a point where we have sustainable
security in the country, and our forces are able to come home and
transition into a role there of more over-watch and training.”

Besides, he added:

“It’s
important to remember that the discussions about timeline issues
previously were from Democrats in Congress who wanted to arbitrarily
retreat from Iraq without consideration of conditions on the ground.
All of the discussions that we have always had have been based on
conditions on the ground and making progress in the country, and we are
doing just that.”

Yes,
the Democrats did call for setting dates for withdrawal, and still are.
But now, Stanzel was reminded, it is Iraqis who are seeking a
commitment that the U.S. presence will end.

Right,
he agreed, putting this interpretation on the matter: “It’s a
reflection of the Iraqis becoming more and more capable of addressing
the security situation in their country.”

Not surprisingly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) had a different take:

“After
rejecting 18 months of attempts by the Democratic majority in Congress
to adopt redeployment timetables,  the President now proposes a vague
‘general time horizon’ that falls far short of a commitment to ending
our involvement in Iraq.”

— James Gerstenzang

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