Gen. David Petraeus announced on Thursday the prospect of additional U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq beginning in the fall, a move that contradicts his recommendation last month to halt withdrawals due to security concerns. The turnaround suggests political motivations, as conditions in Iraq remain chaotic and the U.S. presidential race looms in the distance.
The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, yesterday [Thursday] held out the surprise prospect of further American troop withdrawals in the autumn, only one month after he recommended that President George Bush halt pull-outs after the summer.
Congressional members welcomed the U-turn, disclosed at a hearing of the Senate armed services committee. The committee’s chairman, the Democratic senator Carl Levin, called the general’s announcement “good news to most of us”. Petraeus told the committee: “My sense is I will be able to make a recommendation at that time for further reductions.” He added he did not want to imply that that would mean pulling out a particular brigade or unit.
There are about 154,000 US soldiers in Iraq. An extra 30,000 sent last year to help quell violence in Baghdad and central and northern Iraq are due to leave by the end of July.