Bush to hasten Iraq troop withdrawal in bid to help McCain win White House

President George Bush wants to speed up the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq, a move that could help to quell the anti-war anxieties of voters before November's presidential election.

Drawing down large numbers of troops would enable the Republican candidate, John McCain, to say that his forceful military strategy for Iraq was correct. Alone among Republican and Democratic politicians, he consistently urged Mr Bush to take on the insurgents with extra forces. He is now attacking his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, for preaching policies of defeat by calling for a withdrawal in 16 months.

American commanders want to reduce their deployment in Iraq to ease the strain on the military and free up troops for Afghanistan where they are taking a beating from the Taliban and other militants.

Nine American soldiers were killed and 15 wounded yesterday in the bloodiest day in three years for US forces in Afghanistan. In a multi-pronged attack, revealing sophistication and daring, militants overran a remote US base near the Pakistan border on the front lines of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. It was the deadliest on US forces in the country since 16 combat troops were killed when their helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in the same area in 2005.

Concerns are also growing that Mr Bush wants to release fighting forces before he leaves office in January, in the event of conflict with Iran.

By the times of Mr Bush's departure, three of the 15 combat brigades now in Iraq could have left the country, say government and military officials. That would still leave up to 130,000 frontline troops in the field – a reduction from the 170,000 deployed in the "surge" last year.

A rapid US withdrawal would mark a sharp turnaround in the fortunes of the Bush administration from only two years ago, amid the bloody slaughter of growing numbers of Iraqis and American soldiers. Anti-war feeling is at fever pitch in the US and the military is said to be near breaking point from its extended combat deployments.

This was the climate in which Mr Obama, a fierce opponent of the war, shot to prominence to seek and eventually win the Democratic presidential nomination. The Illinois Senator will head to Baghdad in a few weeks to take soundings from Iraqi leaders and US military commanders about a withdrawal. He is taking with him the Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a fierce critic of Mr Bush's policies in Iraq with him as he seeks to arrange the orderly removal of all US combat troops if he is elected president in November.

Mr Obama's plan is to remove one or two brigades every month, but he says that he will be guided by military commanders on the ground. Mr Hagel has sometimes been suggested as a possible vice-presidential running mate for Mr Obama, who needs to reach out to Republican voters if he is to expand the Democratic vote and win the White House. As the conditions in Iraq improve, the government and armed forces have shown an ability to combat insurgents that would have been unthinkable a short time ago. The number of attacks on American and other forces has dropped sharply and is now down to the levels of 2004 when the insurgency was gathering steam.

The faster pullout being considered by President Bush would free US troops for duties in Afghanistan where the Taliban and other insurgents are growing in confidence and strength. In the past three months more American soldiers died in Afghanistan than in Iraq as violence has declined.

"As the Iraqi security forces get stronger and get better, then we will be able to continue drawing down our troops in the future," the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, said last week.

General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, is reviewing troop levels and officials say that he is expected to take a more cautions approach and recommend smaller reductions in forces.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician / Helpdesk - 2nd / 3rd Line

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Application Developer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in the centre of Glasgow,...

Recruitment Genius: Production Engineering Manager

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Joinery Shop Foreman

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Joinery Shop Foreman is required to join a p...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada