Baker Supports A Time-Certain Withdrawal After All
The other shoe drops:
The bipartisan Iraq Study Group plans to recommend withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat units from Iraq by early 2008 while leaving behind troops to train, advise and support the Iraqis, setting the first goal for a major drawdown of U.S. forces, sources familiar with the proposal said yesterday.
The call to pull out combat brigades by early 2008 would be more a conditional goal than a firm timetable, predicated on the assumption that circumstances on the ground would permit it, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the commission's report will not be released until next week. But panel members concluded that it is vital to set a target to put pressure on Iraqi leaders to do more to assume responsibility for the security of their country.
"It's really about transitioning from a combat to a support role, and basically making very clear that this is no longer an open-ended commitment and we're going to get this done whether the Iraqis like it or not," said one of the sources. "Everybody understands that we're at the end of the road here."
In other words, even Jim Baker thinks the Iraqis need to be prodded before they will act. And he thinks it is lethal for this war to be hanging over the GOP’s head as the party heads into the 2008 presidential campaign.
So what about Bush’s bluster Thursday that a “graceful exit” isn’t in the cards? It was purely semantics, because Bush refuses to put a negative spin on our predicament. Notice how quickly the White House rushed out late Thursday to reverse the impression Bush left that he was truly in a state of denial.
But aides later cautioned against interpreting that as opposition to any change in the U.S. troop posture. "That's not the case," said one senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "His position is he's not entering this process with defeat on his mind" for the sole purpose of getting out, the official said. Some options being discussed by the Iraqi Study Group and his own administration's internal policy review, the official said, are "things that he's very open to."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an interview with CBS News, sounded more open to the concept of drawing down forces. "The whole goal here is to transfer responsibility to the Iraqis and to give them enough capability to take those responsibilities," she said. "Obviously, as those responsibilities are transferred, as the capability improves, then American forces will be less in evidence and less needed. That's a natural outcome."
So would Bush endorse a plan to cut in half our troop presence by early 2008, and could he do this if Condi is now trying to convince him to give up reconciliation efforts with the Sunnis and side with the Shiites?
And if he abandons the Sunnis as Condi is reportedly recommending, how will the Saudis, the Egyptians, and the Jordanians react, when they have reportedly agreed to step in and militarily support the Sunnis if this ever happened? Why wouldn’t the whole region slide into a Sunni-Shia war before we could get out?