Timetable set for removing US troops from Iraq
BY CORKY SIEMASZKO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Friday, August 22nd 2008, 2:11 PM
Yussef/Getty According to a new deal between American and Iraqi authorities, US troops will be out of the Iraq by 2011.
President Bush has finally come up with a timetable for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq: He wants them out by December 2011.
That long sought-after date emerged Friday when Secretary of State Rice and her Iraqi counterpart announced a tentative deal to withdraw combat troops out of the major cities by next June.
"We have agreed that some goals, some aspirational timetables for how that might unfold are well worth having in such an agreement," Rice said in Baghdad.
Bush had long resisted a timetable, even as public opinion turned against a war that has taken more than 4,100 U.S. lives and cost Americans billions of dollars since it was launched in March 2003.
Now, Bush is pushing for a deal that sets specific dates by which the Iraqis are expected to step up and fill the power vacuum left by departing U.S. soldiers.
"By June 2009, if security progress continues, there would be no need for US troops in city centers," the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, told The Independent, a British newspaper.
The proposal still has to be ratified by the Iraqi parliament, which is far from certain.
Some of the Sunnis - who ran Iraq when Saddam Hussein was in power and now fear payback from the country's Shiite-dominated government - are already against it.
Bush's proposed timetable is also having repurcussions on the presidential campaign of Republican John McCain.
McCain said he could win the Iraq war by 2013, and insisted he would not set a timetable for troop withdrawals as demanded by the Democrats. Now, he's been undermined by the president he hopes to succeed.
"As long as Iraq is on the table, it helps McCain," said Mitchell Moss, a former campaign adviser to Mayor Bloomberg and an NYU professor.
"The diminishing role of Iraq in this election means the McCain campaign has to focus on economic policies, which have not been the strength of the Republican party."
Democrat Barack Obama has pledged that if he wins in November, he'll get combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office.
"Most Americans want this thing to end," Steve Elmendorf, a top aide to former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, told the Associated Press. McCain "still talks of continued engagement."