President Bush has said over and over again that there will be no timetable for pulling our troops out of Iraq; that would only give the insurgents a motivation to just wait us out. So he says. But apparently the Brits have other plans.
The United States and Britain are drawing up plans to withdraw the majority of their troops from Iraq by the middle of next year, according to a secret memo written for British Prime Minister Tony Blair by Defense Secretary John Reid.
The paper, which is marked “Secret — UK Eyes Only,” said “emerging U.S. plans assume that 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by early 2006,” allowing a reduction in overall U.S.-led forces in Iraq to 66,000 troops. The troop level is now at about 160,000, including 138,000 American troops, according to a military spokesman in Baghdad.
Reid on Sunday did not dispute the authenticity of the document, but said that no decision on troop levels had been made. In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said officials there had not seen the document.
Reid, in a statement Sunday following publication of the memo, said the British government had “made it absolutely plain that we will stay in Iraq for as long as is needed.
“No decisions on the future force posture of UK forces have been taken. But we have always said that it is our intention to hand over the lead in fighting terrorists to Iraqi Security Forces as their capability increases,” Reid said. “We therefore continually produce papers outlining possible options and contingencies.
“This is but one of a number of such papers produced over recent months covering various scenarios.”
It’s certainly understandable to have a variety of plans in your pocket for various scenarios…but this sounds like more than just contingency planning. This sounds like a plan based not on speculation but on real forecasts of troop strength and scheduling. This sounds like they’ve got real ideas of where they will be and what they’ll be doing. What do you call that? A timetable.