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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Monday, January 10, 2005

Iraq exit strategy-have them ask us to leave?

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/10/2005 10:07:00 AM


In the Washington Post David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt report that there is talk among lawmakers and the Pentagon that perhaps we need an exit strategy in Iraq.
So far it is mostly talk, not planning. The only thing resembling a formal map to the exit door is a series of Pentagon contingency plans for events after the Jan. 30 elections. But a senior administration official warned over the weekend against reading too much into that, saying "the Pentagon has plans for everything," from the outbreak of war in Korea to relief missions in Africa.

The rumblings about disengagement have grown distinctly louder as members of Congress return from their districts after the winter recess, and as military officers try to game out how Sunni Arabs and Shiites might react to the election results. The annual drafting of the budget is a reminder that the American presence in Iraq is costing nearly $4.5 billion a month and putting huge strains on the military. And White House officials contemplate the political costs of a second term possibly dominated by a nightly accounting of continuing casualties.
Of course the Denier in Chief is not involved, he thinks everything is just peachy in Iraq. Dubya may be in a bubble but not everyone is.
But all over Washington, there is talk about new ways to define when the mission is accomplished - not to cut and run, but not to linger, either. Several administration officials acknowledge that Mr. Bush will face crucial decisions soon after Jan. 30, when it should become clearer whether the election has resulted in more stability or more insurgency.

Already, the president found himself in a rare public argument last week with one of his father's closest friends and advisers, Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser. The election "won't be a promising transformation, and it has great potential for deepening the conflict,"
Mr. Scowcroft declared Thursday, adding, "We may be seeing incipient civil war at this time."
But Bush remains in his bubble of denial.
Mr. Bush, asked Friday whether he shared Mr. Scowcroft's concerns about "an incipient civil war," shot back, "Quite the opposite."

"I think elections will be such an incredibly hopeful experience for the Iraqi people," he said.
But even in the administration not everyone is wearing rose colored glasses.
But the president's optimism is in sharp contrast, some administration insiders say, to some conversations in the White House Situation Room, the Pentagon and Congress. For the first time, there are questions about whether it is politically possible to wait until the Iraqi forces are adequately trained before pressure to start bringing back American troops becomes overwhelming.
So what's the exit plan, easy, they will ask us to leave.
One possibility quietly discussed inside the administration is whether the new Iraqi government might ask the United States forces to begin to leave - what one senior State Department official calls "the Philippine option," a reference to when the Philippines asked American forces to pull out a decade ago.

Few officials will talk publicly about that possibility. But in a speech on Oct. 8, Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, who had just completed a tour as commander of all marines in Iraq, said, "I believe there will be elections in Iraq in January, and I suspect very shortly afterward you will start to see a reduction in U.S. forces - not because U.S. planners will seek it, rather because the Iraqis will demand it."