The London Times reports that UK and US troops are fixin’ to begin a pullout of Iraq at the beginning of 2006.
Richard Beeston and Stephen Farrell in Baghdad and Michael Evans in Basra write,
BRITAIN and America are planning a phased withdrawal of their forces from Iraq as soon as a permanent government is installed in Baghdad after this weekâ€™s elections.
In a move that has caused alarm in the outgoing Iraqi administration, American and British officials have made clear that they regard the end of Iraqâ€™s two-and-a-half-year transitional period as the green light to begin withdrawing some of their combined force of around 170,000 troops as early as March. …
…The moves appear to run contrary to statements by President Bush and John Reid, the Defence Secretary, who insist that coalition forces will not â€œcut and runâ€ and will stay until the mission in Iraq is complete.
Indeed, in his speech today, Bush said,
We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq. Our goal is victory. And victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq’s democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation.
… or by the end of 2006, whichever comes first.
BTW, I really liked this part of today’s speech:
I’ve come to discuss an issue that’s really important, and that is victory in the war on terror. And that war started on September the 11th, 2001, when our nation awoke to a sudden attack.
Like generations before us, we have accepted new responsibilities. We’re confronting dangers with new resolve. We’re taking the fight to those who attacked us and to those who share their murderous vision for future attacks.
We will fight this war without wavering, and we’ll prevail.
The war on terror will take many turns, and the enemy must be defeated on every battlefield, from the streets of Western cities, to the mountains of Afghanistan, to the tribal regions of Pakistan, to the islands of Southeast Asia and to the Horn of Africa.
Yet the terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity.
So we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war on terror.
That boy’s still tying 9/11 to Iraq. He ain’t givin’ up.
He presented a slightly different angle during the question-and-answer session:
QUESTION: Mr. President, I would like to know why it is that you and others in your administration keep linking 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq when no respected journalists or Middle Eastern expert confirmed that such a link existed.
BUSH: What did she – I missed the question. Sorry.
I beg your pardon. I didn’t hear you. Seriously.
QUESTION: I would like to know why you and others in your administration invoke 9/11 as justification for the invasion of Iraq when no respected journalists or other Middle Eastern experts confirm that such a link existed.
BUSH: Oh, I appreciate that.
9/11 changed my look on foreign policy. I mean, it said that oceans no longer protect us; that we can’t take threats for granted; that if we see a threat, we’ve got to deal with it. It doesn’t have to be militarily necessarily but we got to deal with it. We can’t just hope for the best anymore.
So the first decision I made, as you know, was to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan because they were harboring terrorists. This is where the terrorists plan and plotted.
And the second decision – which was a very difficult decision for me, by the way, and it’s one that I didn’t take lightly – was that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He is a declared enemy of the United States. He had used weapons of mass destruction. The entire world thought he had weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations had declared in more than 10 – I can’t remember the exact number of resolutions – that disclose or disarm or face serious consequences.
I mean, there was a serious international effort to say to Saddam Hussein: `You’re a threat.’ And the 9/11 attacks accentuated that threat, as far as I’m concerned.
And so we gave Saddam Hussein the chance to disclose or disarm. And he refused.
And I made a tough decision. And knowing what I know today, I’d make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country.
Are we making sense yet?