Wednesday, April 09, 2008

BUSH 'MAY BACK IRAQ PULLOUT HALT' !

President George W Bush will give his recommendations on Iraq on Thursday. The White House has left little doubt that President George W Bush will back the top US military leader's call for suspending troop withdrawals from Iraq.
Gen David Petraeus recommended a pause in withdrawals after July while giving testimony to US congressional panels.
A White House spokeswoman said Mr Bush, due to give his verdict on Thursday, was the type of leader "who listens to his commanders on the ground".
Gen Petraeus told Congress progress had been made but many challenges remained.
Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee on his second day of congressional hearings, he repeated his opinion that troop withdrawals be suspended after July for a period of reassessment.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino refused to give specifics but said Mr Bush would give "his decision, his recommendations" on the US course in Iraq after talking to senior members of Congress.
She said it was possible that Mr Bush would also discuss potential reductions in the length of tours of duty in Iraq.
Ike Skelton, the top Democrat on the committee, said the effort dedicated to Iraq was putting US security at risk because US forces were overstretched.
Congressman Skelton pointed to the threat that the next attack on the US might come from Afghanistan and said more resources should be directed to that conflict.
US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker told the House Armed Services Committee that the US had reason to sustain its large commitment to and investment in Iraq.
He said that progress in Iraq had been "substantial but also reversible".
Congressman Duncan Hunter, the senior Republican on the panel, said prospects were more promising than last year, adding: "No-one can deny that the security situation in Iraq has improved."

On Tuesday, the first of two days of hearings, Gen Petraeus and Mr Crocker testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and Foreign Relations Committee.
They also came face to face with the three senators vying to succeed George W Bush as president this November.

Graph of US troops and military deaths

John McCain, the Republicans' choice as candidate, was positive about the situation in Iraq while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the rivals for the Democratic candidacy, pressed for withdrawal.
Gen Petraeus told senators that security was better than the situation at the time of his last report to Congress in September and significantly better than before the start of the US troop surge at the beginning of last year.

Gen Petraeus said the situation in Iraq was still unsatisfactory. But while there had been real progress, it was "fragile and is reversible", he said. The planned "drawdown" of about 20,000 troops should continue to July but afterwards there should be a 45-day "period of consolidation and evaluation", he said.
He could not say how many US troops would be in Iraq at the end of the year. The US currently has 160,000 troops in Iraq.
When Gen Petraeus was asked about the recent Iraqi-led operation against militias in Basra, the US commander said it had not been "adequately planned or prepared".
Iraq sent thousands of troops to Basra in a failed attempt to force the Shia Mehdi Army militia into submission. Hundreds died in heavy fighting.
Ambassador Crocker said the US and Iraq were negotiating a long-term agreement on their relations that would cover the US troop presence.
He insisted the deal did not envisage permanent US bases in Iraq and that it would not tie the hands of the next administration.

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BBC NEWS REPORT.

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