George W. Bush didn't say when he announced the plan in January.
When Defense Secretary Robert Gates got the question on Jan. 11, he said at a Washington news conference: "It's really hard to say at this point. It's viewed as a temporary surge. But I think no one has a really clear idea of how long that might be."
How temporary? At a news conference in Iraq on Jan. 19, Gates stood by silently as Gen. George Casey said that the "projections" are that additional U.S. troops could start heading home in the "late summer" of this year.
Or not. As the New York Times reports today, the man in charge of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq is recommending that the president maintain the escalated number of troops there until at least February 2008.
Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.