NPR logo New Timetables, Phased Pullout Likely for Iraq

New Timetables, Phased Pullout Likely for Iraq

U.S. soldiers man a checkpoint in central Baghdad, Oct. 29, 2006. The new Democratic majority leaders in the House and Senate are expected to call for phased reductions of U.S. troop levels in Iraq. Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images

With Democrats taking control of the House and Senate, there will likely be a shift in Iraq policy. Look for a renewed emphasis on goals and timetable, from training Iraqi troops, political reconciliation and economic development to a phased reduction in U.S. forces, which now number about 152,000.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) has disputed President Bush's repeated line that Americans will stay until the job is done. Levin, who is in line to become chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wants to impose some sort of deadlines so that Iraqis are forced to make compromises.

In July, Levin called for the phased reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq, starting by the end of the year. Contrast that with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has said there may have to be increases in U.S. forces in Iraq. If the Republicans had retained control of the Senate, McCain was in line to become Armed Services chairman.

In the House, Democrat Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri is expected to become chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Skelton has said that as each Iraqi unit comes on line, a U.S. unit should come home. The Pentagon now says that there are 310,000 Iraqis who are trained and equipped. But an NPR reporter who recently visited with some Iraqi army units in Anbar Province found they had a small fraction of the troops they claimed.