Iraqi PM: I Want a Timetable

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What degree of agency do we give the Iraqi government? The AP:

Iraq’s prime minister said Monday his country wants some type of timetable for a withdrawal of American troops included in the deal the two countries are negotiating.

It was the first time that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has explicitly and publicly called for a withdrawal timetable — an idea opposed by President Bush.

He offered no details. But his national security adviser, Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, told The Associated Press that the government is proposing a timetable conditioned on the ability of Iraqi forces to provide security.

This is more a change in rhetoric than a change in substance. A timetable for withdrawal tied to unspecified benchmarks of Iraqi troop readiness is a recipe for staying in the country indefinitely. But it does represent a break from the Bush Administration, and if Maliki backs up this new language with specifics, we’ll have a situation on our hands.

Obama, for the record, wants combat troops out in 16 months. I wonder if in his upcoming trip to Iraq, he’ll meet with Maliki.

Update: Bush’s statement on the sovereignty of the Iraqi government after the jump.

We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It’s their government’s choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave.

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