Bush to hasten Iraq troop withdrawal in bid to help McCain win White House
Monday 14 July 2008
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.
- 1 British tourists 'murdered' in Thailand: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 2 Vivienne Westwood says 'Yes' to Scottish Independence by declaring: 'I hate England'
- 3 Welcome to Cameroon, where drinking Baileys can lead to imprisonment
- 4 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 5 Vogue under fire for 'Big Booty' article
British tourists 'murdered' in Thailand: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
Jihadi John': MI5 may have identified Isis militant who killed David Haines but options limited
Vivienne Westwood says 'Yes' to Scottish Independence by declaring: 'I hate England'
David Haines beheading: David Cameron says Britain will hunt down Isis 'monsters' shown in video murdering aid worker
Piers Morgan attempts to save the Union by promising to go back to the US if Scotland votes 'No' to independence
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
Salmond accused of laughing off national debt with ‘what are they going to do: invade?’ joke
£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...
£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...