President George W. Bush is quietly back pedaling on his failed Iraq war strategy as the White House works to scale back expectations and lower the threshold for measurable results.
The administration will no longer claim success from the “troop surge” and any update in status has been postponed until at least September.
Reports David Sanger of The New York Times:
The Bush administration will not try to assess whether the troop increase in Iraq is producing signs of political progress or greater security until September, and many of Mr. Bushâ€™s top advisers now anticipate that any gains by then will be limited, according to senior administration officials.
In interviews over the past week, the officials made clear that the White House is gradually scaling back its expectations for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The timelines they are now discussing suggest that the White House may maintain the increased numbers of American troops in Iraq well into next year.
That prospect would entail a dramatically longer commitment of frontline troops, patrolling the most dangerous neighborhoods of Baghdad, than the one envisioned in legislation that passed the House and Senate this week. That vote, largely symbolic because Democrats do not have the votes to override the promised presidential veto, set deadlines that would lead to the withdrawal of combat troops by the end of March 2008.
On Friday, during an appearance with Japanâ€™s prime minister at Camp David, President Bush said that he would invite congressional leaders to the White House on Wednesday, immediately after his expected veto message, to talk about a â€œway forward.â€ [Page A10.]
Several American officials who have spoken recently with Mr. Maliki say they believe that he would like to achieve the kind of political reconciliation that Mr. Bush outlined in January as the ultimate goal of the troop increase. But they say the Iraqi prime minister appears to have little ability to manage the required legislation, including bills requiring fair distribution of oil revenues among Iraqâ€™s Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, and reversing the American-led de-Baathification that barred many Sunnis from participation in the new government.
Even as administration officials have been telling Congress that Mr. Bush would accept no time limits on success, they have been pushing Mr. Maliki to move faster.
â€œHe is trying to fight fires coming from every direction,â€ Ryan C. Crocker, the newly arrived American ambassador to Iraq, said of Mr. Maliki this week, speaking by telephone. â€œWe have to be clear to him on where our priorities are, so that we can buy him the time he needs. And we have to buy the time now because he is going to need it in the future.â€
Mr. Crocker said that he had told Mr. Maliki that evidence of progress â€œis important in American termsâ€ because â€œto sustain American support we have to be able to see that Iraqis are stepping up to hard challenges.â€
But the new view of Mr. Malikiâ€™s limitations was put bluntly by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, who spent the week pressing Congress not to put limits on either the timing or conduct of his operations, as he described what he discovered upon returning to Iraq after a two-year hiatus.