About 'Opportunity To Reduce Forces'
|December 2nd, 2006||#1|
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'Opportunity To Reduce Forces' info
December 2, 2006
A congressional bipartisan group studying Iraq will recommend more reliance on diplomacy and the pullback of many U.S. troops from Iraq.
By Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The commander of coalition forces in northern Iraq said Friday that four Iraqi army divisions in his area will be put under Baghdad's control by next March, just the kind of transfer that a U.S. study commission reportedly is ready to embrace.
''I can certainly see great opportunity to reduce the amount of combat forces on the ground'' in the north ''and turn more responsibility over to Iraqi security forces,'' Gen. Benjamin S. Mixon told Pentagon reporters in a videoconference from his headquarters near Tikrit. He said that even after this transition is complete, U.S. troops likely would continue to support Iraqi forces and conduct combat operations against al Qaeda ``operatives.''
In the Iraq Study Group report expected to be released Wednesday, the U.S. government would be called upon to rely more on diplomacy than deadlines in its Iraq policy. But that would rob many war critics of the impetus they wanted to force a speedy, sizable U.S. troop withdrawal from the battlefield.
The study team headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton also recommends a gradual reduction of U.S. forces and a more aggressive regional diplomacy, but sets no timetable, according to officials familiar with the group's deliberations. The report could give President Bush political cover to shift tactics in the increasingly unpopular war.
Meanwhile, a senior administration official said Bush will meet Monday with Abdul-Aziz Hakim, one of Iraq's most powerful Shiite politicians, in a bid to find a new approach. This official also said the president will meet in January here with a Sunni leader -- Iraqi Vice President Tariq al Hashemi.
The Washington Post reported Friday that the U.S. was considering whether to abandon efforts to bring Sunni insurgents into the political process to stabilize Iraq. The concern is that the outreach to Sunni dissidents has failed and may be alienating the country's majority Shiites, who dominate the government. The report cited unidentified sources familiar with the proposal.
National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, in remarks which will air Sunday on a television program, said: ``This has really got to become more and more of an Iraqi problem, and less and less of a U.S. one. I would hope that our forces can take more of a support role and a training role, and fall more into the background rather than being in the lead in the months ahead.''
2008 pull-back goal
Some media reports suggested that the commission would recommend withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by early 2008, leaving behind only those troops needed to train and support the Iraqis. The reports described the recommendation as goal rather than a firm timetable.
At least some U.S. commanders in Iraq already are shifting a growing number of their troops from combat to support roles, while giving the Iraqi Ministry of Defense more control over Iraq troops.
Under the panel's recommendations, U.S. troops could be pulled back slowly from the front lines, acting as more of a support structure for the Iraqi security forces, officials said. Several officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity.
Yet advisors to the panel and others aware of its work also noted that many of the recommendations will not differ greatly from either current policy or from ideas already under debate within the administration.
Bush repeatedly has rejected a wholesale troop withdrawal or what he calls artificial deadlines.
The Iraq Study Group's approximately 100-page report will indicate the presence of U.S. troops is part of the problem in Iraq, one official said.
The panel will demand more accountability from the Iraqi government, although it is not clear how progress would be measured, the official said.
The congressionally chartered panel, whose recommendations are not binding, will encourage Bush to engage U.S. adversaries Syria and Iran to improve regional dialogue, several officials said. That outreach could include a regional conference among all of Iraq's neighbors or a wider gathering of Middle East nations that also would address separate Middle East peace issues.
|December 2nd, 2006||#3|
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I feel sorry for Iraq and the Sunnis. We got them into this mess and now they have to get themselves out.
"Mankind, when left to themselves, are unfit for their own government." - George Washington
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