It hadn’t occurred to me until just this second, but there are two ways to interpret a request on the part of the Iraqi government for a timeline for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — A deadline should be set for the withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces from Iraq, and the pullout could be done by 2011, an Iraqi government spokesman said Tuesday.
Ali al-Dabbagh said any timetable would depend on “conditions and the circumstances that the country would be undergoing.” But he said a pullout within “three, four or five” years was possible.
“It can be 2011 or 2012,” al-Dabbagh said. “We don’t have a specific date in mind, but we need to agree on the principle of setting a deadline.”
In much of the withdrawalnik blogosphere that’s been interpreted as a demand for U. S. troops to withdraw soonest. But note that this is not a request for complete cessation of combat operations, i.e. providing more security for the Iraqi people, over sixteen months as has been proposed by Sen. Obama. Quite the contrary, this looks to me to be a combination of a suggestion that the Maliki government isn’t interested in a longterm U. S. presence in Iraq (which is jake with me) and that the U. S. continue to provide security beyond the period that Sen. Obama has been talking about and, as such, is a form of insurance against the ambiguities of the political situation in the U. S.
So the other way to interpret this is as a plea for a timeline during which U. S. troops would stay in Iraq, at least through the first term of the next U. S. president.
I think that’s an unambiguous good and should be leaped upon. For one thing it would take the heat off Sen. Obama to do things he hasn’t actually promised to do (complete withdrawal from Iraq in the near term).