The Pull-Out Technique

Tuesday on the Sean Hannity show (I skimmed the DoD transcript) Donald Rumsfeld predicted that the Iraqi insurgency will diminish after the December elections because “what the terrorists will be doing at that stage is attacking the Iraqi Constitution which was fashioned by the Iraqi people and an Iraqi government that was elected under the Iraqi Constitution, and they won’t be against coalition people.”

So the war is nearly over?

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SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. Let me — No, let me rephrase it. First of all, I don’t know what war you’re talking about.

HANNITY: I’m talking about the war in Iraq.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Okay, if you’re talking about Iraq — The Global War on Terror I regret to say is going to go on for some time because of the advantage that a terrorist has in being able to attack and the difficulty of defending against attacks at any location at any moment of the day or night.

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Which makes me wonder, Mr. Love ’em then leave ’em, what might change with the news today regarding the discovery by U.S. troops of up to 200 Sunnis at a secret prison of which there are said to be more?

Prime Minister (of course the deputy PM Ahmed Chalabi met with Rummy the night before as some in the administration “still believe that there were WMD“) Ibrahim al-Jafaari:

I was informed that there were 173 detainees held at an Interior Ministry prison and they appear to be malnourished. There is also some talk that they were subjected to some kind of torture.”

While there are several warring militia in the region, it is said that the most feared of them all, the Wolf Brigade (a Shi’ite dominated militia) are hosts of these prisons, according to an article in Wednesday’s Independent which also includes “an American official” uttering: “It is getting more and more like Mogadishu every day.”

And this will stop as soon as the elections are over?

For the first time since the invasion of Iraq, a timetable has officially been brought into play regarding Coalition troops withdrawal. Last week, after the UN unanimously approved a resolution giving a mandate for forces to remain for another year, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, followed by Condoleezza Rice and Kofi Annan, made secret visits to Baghdad.

Last Thursday, Straw told al-Jafaari that he hoped UK troops would make a swift withdrawal. The next day, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani went on television and warned that immediate removal of the 8,000 British troops in Iraq would be a catastrophe, but that within one year, “Iraqi troops will be ready to replace British forces in the south.”

British PM Tony Blair is now with Defense Secretary John Reid and General Sir Mike Jackson, head of the British Army, who confirmed over the weekend that the timetable announced by Talabani is “entirely consistent with our aims.”

Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq Rubaie told reporters in Cairo that 30,000 troops will be withdrawn by the middle of 2006 after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday.

In Tuesday’s New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof guesses that the best bet is to give a timetable for withdrawal. He quotes a member of the Iraqi media:

The Americans said that they came to overthrow Saddam Hussein,” she said. “They did so and Saddam Hussein is gone, and they are still there. So they are there for their own reasons” – she was apparently alluding to stealing oil and setting up bases.

Rumsfeld took a Churchillian take on this in his Defense Department Briefing Tuesday, channelling the WWII Prime Minister (Rummy read Winston’s bio Monday night), whose dilemma “was not winning the war, but rather persuading people to allow him to win it.”

It goes without saying that a timetable IS mandatory – one can’t carry on with the mantra: “Stay the course,” when there clearly is none.

Truth is, the situation in Iraq may take a turn for the worst when and if we leave.

But, as a recent editorial in the Arab News asks, “can conditions in Iraq in fact get any worse if the coalition withdraws?”

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