Drawdown in the air?
The president seems to be a little ahead of the Pentagon, and his own press secretary, on the potential to reduce American forces in Iraq. At least, that's the tone from this short story in the Los Angeles Times:
The president said progress was being made as Iraqis were learning to handle their own security force and the new government began its work.More on General Ham's briefing from VOA:
Iraq's government will assess the nation's security needs and work with U.S. commanders, Bush said, adding that "we're now able to take a new assessment about the needs necessary for the Iraqis."
Bush's comments came hours after the White House had played down prospects of major troop withdrawals.
"The conditions on the ground tell us that our job's not done," Press Secretary Tony Snow said.
At the Pentagon, Brig. Gen. Carter Ham said he was unaware of any numerical target for cuts this year, and he cautioned against expecting major reductions before Iraqis showed they could handle the insurgents.
Brigadier General Carter Ham, who works on regional conflicts for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the delay in naming ministers of defense and interior will have an impact because those ministries have the most direct involvement in issues that affect security. The Defense Ministry controls the army and the Interior Ministry handles the police. "For us from the security standpoint, those are the two key ministries, and having stability, having responsible, capable leaders in those ministries is clearly beneficial to everyone," he said.Also covered by AFP:
WASHINGTON, May 23, 2006 (AFP) - A senior US military official cautioned Tuesday against turning security responsibility over to Iraqis too hastily, tamping down expectations of cutbacks in the US force.
Brigadier General Carter Ham, deputy director of operations of the Joint Staff, said he was unaware of specific targets for a US drawdown this year despite ambitious goals espoused by new Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
"We want to do it as soon as we can, but you can't do it too fast. We've talked about rushing to failure. We've got to be very careful to not do that," Ham told reporters here.