Iraq Panel to Recommend Pullback of Combat Troops

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Virgil, Nov 30, 2006.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. The bi-partisan Iraq Study Group is expected to release it's findings November 30. NY Times is printing the following:

    Iraq Panel to Recommend Pullback of Combat Troops



    WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 — The bipartisan Iraq Study Group reached a consensus on Wednesday on a final report that will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal, according to people familiar with the panel’s deliberations.

    The report, unanimously approved by the 10-member panel, led by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, is to be delivered to President Bush next week. It is a compromise between distinct paths that the group has debated since March, avoiding a specific timetable, which has been opposed by Mr. Bush, but making it clear that the American troop commitment should not be open-ended. The recommendations of the group, formed at the request of members of Congress, are nonbinding.

    A person who participated in the commission’s debate said that unless the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki believed that Mr. Bush was under pressure to pull back troops in the near future, “there will be zero sense of urgency to reach the political settlement that needs to be reached.”

    The report recommends that Mr. Bush make it clear that he intends to start the withdrawal relatively soon, and people familiar with the debate over the final language said the implicit message was that the process should begin sometime next year.

    The report leaves unstated whether the 15 combat brigades that are the bulk of American fighting forces in Iraq would be brought home, or simply pulled back to bases in Iraq or in neighboring countries. (A brigade typically consists of 3,000 to 5,000 troops.) From those bases, they would still be responsible for protecting a substantial number of American troops who would remain in Iraq, including 70,000 or more American trainers, logistics experts and members of a rapid reaction force.

    As the commission wound up two and a half days of deliberation in Washington, the group said in a public statement only that a consensus had been reached and that the report would be delivered next Wednesday to President Bush, Congress and the American public. Members of the commission were warned by Mr. Baker and Mr. Hamilton not to discuss the contents of the report.

    But four people involved in the debate, representing different points of view, agreed to outline its conclusions in broad terms to address what they said might otherwise be misperceptions about the findings. Some said their major concern was that the report might be too late.

    “I think we’ve played a constructive role,” one person involved in the committee’s deliberations said, “but from the beginning, we’ve worried that this entire agenda could be swept away by events.”

    Even as word of the study group’s conclusions began to leak out, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said two or three battalions of American troops were being sent to Baghdad from elsewhere in Iraq to assist in shoring up security there. Another Pentagon official said the additional troops for Baghdad would be drawn from a brigade in Mosul equipped with fast-moving, armored Stryker vehicles.

    As described by the people involved in the deliberations, the bulk of the report by the Baker-Hamilton group focused on a recommendation that the United States devise a far more aggressive diplomatic initiative in the Middle East than Mr. Bush has been willing to try so far, including direct engagement with Iran and Syria. Initially, those contacts might be part of a regional conference on Iraq or broader Middle East peace issues, like the Israeli-Palestinian situation, but they would ultimately involve direct, high-level talks with Tehran and Damascus.


    Throughout the debates, Mr. Baker, who served as secretary of state under Mr. Bush’s father and was the central figure in developing the strategy to win the 2000 Florida recount for Mr. Bush, was highly reluctant to allow a timetable for withdrawal to be included in the report, participants said.

    Mr. Baker cited what Mr. Bush had also called a danger: that any firm deadline would be an invitation to insurgents and sectarian groups to bide their time until the last American troops were withdrawn, then seek to overthrow the government. But Democrats on the commission also suspected that Mr. Baker was reluctant to embarrass the president by embracing a strategy Mr. Bush had repeatedly rejected.

    Committee members struggled with ways, short of a deadline, to signal to the Iraqis that Washington would not prop up the government with military forces endlessly, and that if sectarian warfare continued the pressure to withdraw American forces would become overwhelming. What they ended up with appears to be a classic Washington compromise: a report that sets no explicit timetable but, between the lines, appears to have one built in.

    As one senior American military officer involved in Iraq strategy said, “The question is whether it doesn’t look like a timeline to Bush, and does to Maliki.”

    In addition to Mr. Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman, the group includes two Democrats who are veterans of the Clinton administration, Leon E. Panetta and William J. Perry, and a Clinton adviser, Vernon E. Jordan Jr. Charles S. Robb, former Democratic governor of Virginia, and Alan K. Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, are also on the panel, along with Sandra Day O’Connor, a former Supreme Court justice who was nominated by President Reagan.

    Other members includes Edwin Meese III, who served as attorney general under Mr. Reagan, and Lawrence S. Eagleburger, a former secretary of state under Mr. Bush’s father. Mr. Eagleburger replaced Robert M. Gates, who resigned when he was nominated to be the next secretary of defense.