Well, this is comforting: It turns out that the American public may know just as much as the Bush administration does about the plan for getting U.S. troops home from Iraq.
That's the disturbing conclusion you'll apparently hear -- privately, of course -- from some administration officials. In an analysis in Friday's Washington Post, Peter Baker says that government officials involved in Iraq policy "privately acknowledge" that,if the public is confused by conflicting statements about the possibility of a troop drawdown, "it may be no more unsure than the administration itself."
So if the administration doesn't know any more than the public knows, and we know what the public knows, then we know what the administration knows, right? Here's what the public knows, or at least what it has been told over the last few weeks. In late July, Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. military official in Iraq, said the U.S. could make "some fairly substantial reductions" in troop levels in the spring and summer. At the beginning of this month, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said he had formed a committee with Iraqis to come up with a detailed plan that would involve withdrawing U.S. troops from specific regions in Iraq. Last weekend, the public learned that Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, has outlined a plan that could bring 20,000 or 30,000 U.S. troops home by the spring. Earlier this week, a top U.S. military official in Baghdad said while such a drawdown is "still possible," people have to start getting more realistic about their expectations. And Thursday in Crawford, Texas, George W. Bush said that any talk of a troop drawdown is "kind of what we call speculation."
Confused? The administration is right there with you, Baker says. "The shifting scenarios reflect the uncertain nature of the mission and the ambiguity of what would constitute its successful completion," he writes. "For all the clarity of Bush's vow to stay not one day longer than needed, the muddled reality is that no one can say exactly when that will be."