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US draft report for talks with Syria, Iran

A dreaft report on US strategies for Iraq has suggested an aggressive regional diplomatic initiative that includes direct talks with Iran and Syria

By: PTI | New York |
November 28, 2006 2:39:59 am

A dreaft report on US strategies for Iraq has suggested an aggressive regional diplomatic initiative that includes direct talks with Iran and Syria, but has set no timetables for a withdrawal of American forces from the country.

While the diplomatic strategy appears likely to be accepted by a bipartisan commission, which will debate the draft from today, members of the commission and outsiders involved in its work told The New York Times that they expected a potentially divisive debate about timetables for beginning an American withdrawal.

In interviews to the newspaper, several officials said that announcing a major withdrawal was the only way to persuade the government of Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to focus on creating an effective Iraqi military force.

Several members of the Iraq Study Group, including some Democrats, are discussing proposals that call for adeclaration that within a specified period of time, perhaps as short as a year, a significant number of American troops should be withdrawn, regardless of whether the Iraqi government’s forces are declared ready to defend the country.

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One proposal, the NYT says, would involve embedding far more American training teams into Iraqi military units in a last-ditch improvement effort, coupled with a withdrawal that in a year would leave 70,000 to 80,000 American troops in the country, compared with about 150,000 now. “It’s not at all clear that we can reach consensus on the military questions,” one member of the commission was quoted as saying.

The draft, according to those who have seen it, appears to link American withdrawal to the performance of the Iraqi military, as President George W Bush has done but details of the performance benchmarks, which were described as not specific, could not be obtained, and it is this section of the report that is most likely to be revised, the paper said.

The recommendations of the commission, an independent advisory group created at the suggestion of several members of Congress, are expected to carry unusual weight because its members, drawn from both political parties, have deep experience in foreign policy, the paper said. They include its co-chairmen, former Secretary of State James A Baker III, a Republican, and Lee H Hamilton, a former Democratic Congressman.

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While the commission has met many times, interviewing administration officials, policy experts, military officers and others, the meeting here today will be the first time that members have gathered to hash out the most difficult issues.

UK to withdraw ‘thousands’ of troops from Iraq in 2007

London: Britain expects to withdraw thousands of troops from Iraq by the end of next year, from the current total of some 7,100, Defence Secretary Des Browne said today. “I can tell you that by the end of next year, I expect numbers of British forces in Iraq to be significantly lower, by a matter of thousands,” Browne said in a defence policy speech in London. “The planning for this has been going on for some months,” he said.

He outlined a strategy in which British troops hand over responsibilities to Iraqi security forces in calmer areas, but maintain a “front line” presence in highly volatile areas like the main southern city of Basra. “We need to be clear that handover does not mean withdrawal,” he said.

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First published on: 28-11-2006 at 02:39:59 am

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