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Report: Bush Administration Considers Stepping Up Pace of Iraq Withdrawal
The Bush administration is considering the withdrawal of additional combat forces from Iraq beginning in September, The New York Times reported.
Citing administration and military officials, the Times said that although no decision has been made, at least one and as many as 3 of the 15 combat brigades in Iraq could either be withdrawn or scheduled for withdrawal by the time President Bush leaves office.
The report references the need for additional troops in Afghanistan, where efforts by the Taliban have increased, as a cause for the consideration to withdraw troops.
Lower levels of violence and attacks on American-led forces in Iraq and the improvement of security are other reasons for the consideration.
“We have clearly seen an increase in violence in Afghanistan,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at Fort Lewis Tuesday, discussing the redeployment of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to the Arabian Sea. “At the same time, we’ve seen a reduction in violence and casualties in Iraq. And I think it’s just part of our commitment to ensure that we have the resources available to be successful in Afghanistan over the long haul.”
The Times reported that although the consensus in Washington and Baghdad is that forces may leave Iraq, President Bush may be cautious due to goals of establishing a stable, democratic government in the country.
“There hasn’t really been any discussion of numbers, and it’s definitely based on conditions on the ground,” a military officer in Baghdad told the Times. And conditions, he went on, “are a lot more favorable than in December or April or even two months ago.”
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told the Times that although Bush would like to bring more troops home, he would wait for a recommendation from General David Petraeus in September.
“For now,” Johndroe said, “we will continue discussions with the Iraqis on our shared goals of a reduced U.S. troop presence.”