Petraeus To Seek To Limit Pause In Pullout To 6 Weeks

March 1st, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Petraeus To Seek To Limit Pause In Pullout To 6 Weeks

New York Times
March 1, 2008 By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
WASHINGTON — The top American military commander in Iraq will recommend that President Bush order a brief pause in troop reductions from Iraq this summer, but the White House expects that the withdrawals will resume before Mr. Bush leaves office, a senior administration official said Friday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to give a more candid picture of the administration’s plans for Iraq, said that the commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, envisioned a pause in troop withdrawals that would last from about four to six weeks.
That pause in drawdowns would begin in July, after five combat brigades ordered to Iraq last year are fully withdrawn. At that point, about 140,000 American troops are projected to be in Iraq, down from a high of more than 160,000 late last year, but still about 8,000 more than were in place at the beginning of 2007.
The administration official described the emerging American plan as “a pause with the intent to continue the drawdown,” and said the aim was simply to give General Petraeus enough time to assess the situation on the ground after the current round of reductions is complete.
The pause — how long it will last, and whether or when withdrawals will resume — has been a source of debate in the administration as General Petraeus and the ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, prepare to report to Congress in April on the situation in the country.
General Petraeus has indicated that he would favor a pause, though he has not been specific about the timetable, and Mr. Bush has said he is likely to go along with the general’s recommendation. Earlier this week, the commander of American forces in the Middle East, Adm. William J. Fallon, said in an interview that any halt in the troop drawdown should be temporary and brief — just long enough to allow “all the dust to settle.”
The comments by the senior official on Friday seemed to endorse Admiral Fallon’s point of view. And they seemed to represent an evolution of thinking inside the White House, where officials had said previously that they could envision a much longer pause, through the end of Mr. Bush’s presidency.
But on Friday, the administration official said the White House and General Petraeus were encouraged by what they regard as economic and political progress in Iraq, especially the recent passage of three laws that have the potential to reconcile Sunni and Shiite factions.
The status of one of those laws is in doubt, however, after Iraq’s Presidency Council vetoed it this week. But Mr. Bush cited the veto as evidence of political progress.
“It was a very interesting moment in Iraqi constitutional history,” the president said at a White House news conference on Thursday. He added, “I thought it was a healthy sign that people are thinking through the legislation that’s passed, and they’re worrying about making sure that laws are constitutional.”
Still, the official said the White House wanted to be careful not to erode security gains in Iraq by withdrawing troops too quickly. So while more troop pullouts may be announced before Mr. Bush leaves office, it is possible that those troops would not come home until the next president is inaugurated.

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