Petreaus rejects time tables for withdrawal

McClatchy/Miami Herald:

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq isn't buying the increasingly popular idea of a publicly stated timetable for American troop withdrawal.

Gen. David Petraeus said in an interview with McClatchy News Service that the situation in Iraq is too volatile to ``project out, and to then try to plant a flag on a particular date.''

With violence at its lowest levels of the war, politicians in both the United States and Iraq are getting behind the idea of a departure timetable. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was first, suggesting he would have combat troops home within 16 months of Inauguration Day. The idea got a big boost during his overseas trip last week, when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki indicated support for that general timeline.

During a Friday interview on CNN's The Situation Room, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who had opposed setting a timeline, appeared to shift ground. McCain said that 16 months ''is a pretty good timetable'' but must be based on conditions on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has embraced ''time horizons'' as it negotiates with the Iraqi government a status-of-forces agreement over the future role of U.S. troops. Petraeus said any timetable must have ``a heck of a lot more granularity than the kind of very short-hand statements that have been put out.''

''We occasionally have commanders who have so many good weeks, [they think] it's won. We've got this thing. Well we don't. We've had so many good weeks. Right now, for example, we've had two and a half months of levels of violence not [seen] since March 2004,'' he said from his office at Camp Victory.

``Well that's encouraging. It's heartening. It's very welcome. But let's keep our powder dry. . . . Let's not let our guard down.''


We have our foot on the neck of the enemy but is is a mistake to let off before the enemy recognizes that its cause is hopeless. That is the point when the war is over. Many of the media are asking when the war is over. The NY Times put the question to McCain when it rejected his op-ed. It is now clear that the enemy can't win, but some may still think there is hope. Democrats have been giving them hope by their policy of premature pullouts. The war will be over sooner if they stop giving the enemy hope.


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