Casey Said to Be Drafting an Iraq 'Draw Down' Plan
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
And I'm Alex Chadwick.
President Bush, today, confirmed he's spoken with the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, about troop withdrawals. New York Times, yesterday, reported that General George Casey has outlined a proposal to begin bringing troops home by this fall, and to reduce American military presence in Iraq by about half before the end of next year. There are now around 130,000 American service members in Iraq. Here's the president speaking, today.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: I've told the American people, our commanders will be making the decisions as to how to achieve victory, and General Casey, of course, is the lead person.
CHADWICK: We're joined now, by the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He's Carl Levin of Michigan. Senator, welcome to DAY TO DAY.
Senator CARL LEVIN (Democrat, Michigan): Thank you.
CHADWICK: The president says any withdrawal decisions are going to be based on conditions on the ground. So, are the discussions with General Casey something new?
Senator LEVIN: Not at all. General Casey's been saying, for some time, that there's going to be substantial reductions this year. That he's planning on them. He said that again, at the Pentagon, just last week. It didn't get much coverage, but it was to me the most critically important thing he said.
He also has said, on a number of occasions, that the longer that we stay there with our current forces in Iraq, the more we're going to end up doing things by ourselves, instead of the Iraqis doing it for themselves. So, I don't think there's the slightest doubt, that before our election, you're going to find significant troop reductions. And the president will find someway to claim that this is progress or a step towards victory.
CHADWICK: Before the elections. I mean, you're suggesting - maybe more than suggesting - this is politics, not ground conditions.
Senator LEVIN: No, the president has got no alternative here. The American people, after three and half years of significant losses - opening up an opportunity for the Iraqis to have a nation - have, I think reached a conclusion that it's now basically got to be up to the Iraqis. Do they want to end the insurgency? Do they want to build a nation? Do they want to make the compromises that have to be made, politically, to bring in the Sunnis? And only the Iraqis can do those things, and our military cannot do those things for them.
CHADWICK: Senator, you had a plan defeated on the floor of the Senate, last week, to set a date for withdrawal of troops. Republicans say there's a distinction between what you were doing and General Casey's plan. That this is condition's on the ground, not a deadline. Is that a fair distinction?
Senator LEVIN: Well, first of all, my resolution - which got the support of almost all the Democrats, including all the potential contenders for the president - said simply, that we should begin, by the end of this year, a phased redeployment of troops. That is what is going to happen. That is what Casey's planning on. That is not a fixed end date for the redeployment of all of our combat troops.
And it's amazing to me, that the Republicans all vote against it because they want to give the president the rubber stamp that he insists on from the Republican Congress. They follow that decision and they vote against something, which is so obvious to most people, which is that we not only should begin the beginning of a phased planned orderly reduction this year, without a fixed end date. But that we're going to do it.
CHADWICK: Carl Levin, Democratic Senator from Michigan. Senator, thank you for joining us on DAY TO DAY.
Senator LEVIN: Thanks.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.