Report: U.S. to Pull Some Troops from Iraq in 2006
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.
Coming up, why the Justice Department decided to try Jose Padilla in civilian rather than military court.
But first, the Defense Department has plans to cut the number of troops in Iraq next year according to a report in today's Washington Post. The report says that by early next year, as many as three combat brigades out of 18 currently there could be withdrawn. With us now is Robin Wright. She's the co-author of the article.
Ms. ROBIN WRIGHT (The Washington Post): Nice to be with you.
BRAND: So how many troops are we talking about?
Ms. WRIGHT: The overall goal over the next year is to bring down the troop level from 150,000 to 100,000. The three combat brigades they're talking about in early next year will involve two that would probably leave the region, but one that would probably be put on call in nearby Kuwait to ensure that if there is some kind of escalation, some new flash point, that there are troops to step in quickly.
BRAND: And are these simply ideas, proposals being floated about, or are these set in stone? Are these actual plans?
Ms. WRIGHT: The Pentagon has set up decision points for the year 2006 to try to figure out time lines, what's possible based on what events in the next year. And that depends on everything from training of Iraqi security forces and police to the political process after the election of a permanent government next month.
BRAND: And how new is this plan? Because we've heard for months now that there are ideas of pulling back troops.
Ms. WRIGHT: Well, the Pentagon is getting close to a decision stage for the next year. A lot of this planning involves the kind of detail, down to the day and hour, that things can be complete. So they're getting much closer to framing what has to happen. The real variable is what happens in Iraq. The Pentagon has plans that it would like to set in stone very soon.
BRAND: Now as we've heard in recent days, the White House has come out strongly against Democratic Congressman John Murtha for calling for a withdrawal. So is it actually on the side quietly making plans for a pullout, and is that contradictory to the public statements?
Ms. WRIGHT: I don't think it's contradictory. The administration has been saying for some time that it didn't want to have a precipitous departure from Iraq. A Pentagon official compared it to pulling the training wheels off a bicycle too soon. The debate clearly has put this issue on the public agenda, but the Pentagon has been planning for it for some time. The reality is that there are so many benchmarks, so many decision points over the next nine months or so that it will be very difficult for the administration to do anything more than consider three combat brigades early next year.
BRAND: How politically motivated is this plan? Elections are coming up in 2006, very shortly, and many have said that this is a losing issue for the Republicans.
Ms. WRIGHT: The election looms large over the administration's decision-making process and considerations, but there are certain realities in Iraq that make it very difficult to do much more. And the realities on the ground are that the United States is going to be required in a major way, both politically and militarily, for at least another nine months.
BRAND: Robin Wright of The Washington Post, thank you for joining us.
Ms. WRIGHT: Thank you.
BRAND: Iraq had, or was suspected of having, weapons of mass destruction over a period of decades. You can read about the country's WMD history in a time line on our Web site, npr.org.
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