Petraeus calls for pause in troop drawdown

The New York Times reports that the U.S. commander in Iraq has recommended that the president wait to decide about further withdrawals.

By Alex Koppelman
Published March 25, 2008 2:13PM (EDT)

The New York Times is reporting on a secure videoconference that involved, among others, Gen. David Petraeus -- the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq -- and President Bush. In the videoconference, the Times says, Petraeus recommended a course of action that should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following his role in the debate over Iraq: Petraeus wants to delay any decisions about further U.S. troop withdrawals until at least a month or two after the previously announced withdrawals finish in July.

"The officials said that Mr. Bush and General Petraeus, recognizing public and Congressional wariness about the toll of the war, would publicly hold out the possibly of withdrawing more troops, but only if conditions allowed it," the Times reports.

One thing that may change is the pace of reviews of conditions in Iraq; currently, they happen twice a year. But the Times reports that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Central Command -- and commanders in both entities reportedly want to remove more troops than Petraeus does -- are advocating monthly reviews, and it appears they may get their wish.

This all brings together a few themes we've noted on various occasions. First, you'll notice that it was Petraeus who proposed the plan -- as we noted Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney, in an interview, stressed that it was Petraeus' opinion that mattered. Of course, there's a good reason for that: Petraeus agrees with current administration thinking, whereas commanders above him do not. Adm. William Fallon, who announced his early retirement from the military, including his position as head of U.S. Central Command, earlier this month, was one of those who was reportedly arguing against Petraeus, and was concerned about the damage the war is doing to the military.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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