US reveals blueprint for Iraq pullout

The White House has announced its plans to withdraw from Iraq, saying that a blueprint advocated last week by a Democratic senator was "remarkably similar" to its own.

    The US has been moving towards a reduction of troops in Iraq

    It also signalled its acceptance of a recent US Senate amendment

    designed to pave the way for a phased US military withdrawal from

    the country.

    The statement by Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, came in

    response to a commentary published in The Washington Post by Joseph

    Biden, the top Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,

    in which he said US forces will begin leaving Iraq next year "in

    large numbers".

    According to Biden, the US will remove about 50,000

    servicemen from the country by the end of 2006, and "a significant

    number" of the remaining 100,000 the year after.

    The blueprint also calls for leaving only an unspecified "small

    force" in Iraq to strike at

    fighters, if necessary.

    U-turn

    Less than two weeks ago, McClellan criticised John Murtha, a Democratic

    Representative, saying that his call for an immediate

    withdrawal from Iraq, endorsed "the policy

    positions of Michael Moore", a stridently anti-war Hollywood

    filmmaker.

    However,

    Senator Joseph Biden says 50,000
    US troops will leave Iraq next year

    Biden's ideas, relayed first in a speech in New

    York on 21 November, were more warmly received.

    Even though President George Bush has never publicly issued

    his own withdrawal plan and criticised calls for an early exit, the

    White House said many of the ideas expressed by the senator were his

    own.

    In the statement, released under the headline "Senator

    Biden adopts key portions of administration's plan for victory in

    Iraq", McClellan said the Bush administration welcomed Biden's voice

    in the debate.

    Remarkably similar

    "Today, Senator Biden described a plan remarkably similar to the

    administration's plan to fight and win the war on terror," the

    spokesman said.

    He said that as Iraqi security forces gained strength and

    experience, "we can lessen our troop presence in the country without

    losing our capability to effectively defeat the terrorists".

    McClellan said the White House now saw "a strong consensus"

    building in Washington in favour of Bush's strategy in Iraq.

    The Biden plan calls for preparatory work to the envisaged withdrawal to be done in the

    first six months of next year. It

    includes:

    • Forging a compromise among Iraqi factions, under which the

      Sunnis must accept that they no longer rule Iraq, and Shia and

      Kurds admit them into a power-sharing arrangement

    • Building Iraq's governing capacity

    • Transferring authority to Iraqi security forces

    • Establishing a contact group of the world's major powers to

      become the Iraqi government's primary international interlocutor.

    The White House statement also embraced a Senate amendment to a

    defence authorisation bill overwhelmingly passed by the Senate on 15

    November that called for the administration to make 2006 "a

    period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty" thereby

    creating conditions "for the phased redeployment of United States

    forces from Iraq".

    Reprimand to Bush

    The measure was largely seen as a reprimand to the Bush

    administration, often accused of lacking a viable strategy in Iraq. 

    "Today, Senator Biden described a plan remarkably similar to the

    administration's plan to fight and win the war on terror"

    Scott McClellan

    ,

    White House spokesman

    But the White House again said the Senate was reading from

    its own playbook.

    "The fact is that the Senate amendment reiterates the

    president's strategy in Iraq," the statement said.

    The Bush administration has been steadily moving towards a 

    reduction of US troops in Iraq, and Condoleezza

    Rice, Secretary of State, spoke last week of a reduction in the US presence for the first

    time.

    Her remarks contrasted sharply with her refusal last month to

    tell a Senate panel whether US troops would be out in a decade,

    acknowledging that anti-US attacks would continue "for quite a

    long time".

    SOURCE: AFP


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    The Muslims of South Korea

    The Muslims of South Korea

    The number of Muslims in South Korea is estimated to be around 100,000, including foreigners.

    Gender violence in India: 'Daughters are not a burden'

    Gender violence in India: 'Daughters are not a burden'

    With female foeticide still widespread, one woman tells her story of being mutilated for giving birth to her daughters.

    Zimbabwe: What's happening?

    Zimbabwe: What's happening?

    Situation tense as thousands march in Harare to call for Robert Mugabe's resignation days after military takeover.