Bush opposes “artificial timeline” for troop withdrawals; Maliki and Bush agree on ‘time horizon’ for reduction of US forces; Obama proposes plan for troop withdrawals by summer of 2010
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  • US President George Bush reiterated his opposition to what he called an “artificial timeline” for the withdrawal of American troops1. In a video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on July 17, both the leaders agreed for a “general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of US combat forces from Iraq,” in the words of White House spokeswoman Dana Perino2. The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen also asserted that setting a timetable for troop withdrawal was “dangerous” and any decision in this regard had to be "exclusively based on conditions on the ground3."

    US Presidential candidate Barack Obama, writing in The New York Times termed the Iraq war “the greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy.” He put forth his proposal for the withdrawal of most of the American troops by the summer of 2010 with a residual force to perform limited missions – including operations against remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and in training Iraqi security forces4. While Prime Minister Maliki welcomed Obama’s withdrawal plan, reports also noted that members of the Iraqi security forces were skeptical of its implementation due to the conditions on the ground5.

    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown meanwhile visited Iraq during the week and refused to set an “artificial timetable” for the withdrawal of British troops. Brown also called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of British hostages being held in the country, after one of the five reported to have committed suicide. They were kidnapped in May 2007 from the premises of the Iraqi finance ministry in Baghdad allegedly by Shia militiamen6.

    In other developments, Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffaq al-Rubaie stated that Iraq hoped to have security control of all its 18 provinces by the end of the year. He was speaking at a ceremony where US-led troops transferred security responsibilities for the southern province of Qadisiya province to Iraqi forces during the week7.

    In domestic political developments, 6 Sunni ministers belonging to the largest Sunni bloc – the Tawafiq, rejoined the government during the week8. In continuing incidents of violence, 2 suicide bombers struck outside an Army recruiting station in Baquba in Diyala province on July 15 killing over 30 people while a car bomb killed over 20 people in the northern city of Tal Afar on July 16.