AL-ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq - President Bush, briefed by U.S. military commanders and Iraqi leaders, said Monday some American forces could be sent home if security across Iraq improves as it has in Anbar province, a former hotbed of Sunni insurgency.
But the president, flanked by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, did not say how many troops could be withdrawn or how soon.
Despite intense pressure at home for cutbacks, Bush said decisions about troop levels "will be based on a calm assessment by our military commanders on the conditions on the ground — not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results in the media.
"In other words," the president told cheering troops, "when we begin to draw down troops from Iraq it will be from a position of strength and success — not from a position of fear and failure."
I love the staging of bringing Maliki to Anbar, the heart of what was the Sunni insurgency. It does two things, it reminds Maliki and the Shia that we took care of the Sunnis and now they are our friends, it also brings the dialogue out of Baghdad where it has been quagmiring. Anbar and the other Sunni enclaves deserve recognition for deciding a free Iraq is probably a nicer place than the Islamic State of No Smokia.
This looks like a Torii gate, so I wonder if these are 3rd Division Marines, from Okinawa.
The defeateds have often said this conflict can't be won militarily, and they have been right. But it can be won if the security situation allows some actual reconciliation. Maliki knows that while he is the rightful leader of an un-reconciled Iraq, if he doesn't get an oil law and some other progress done he is toast. And that is not the voice of American imperialism, that is Iraqi political reality. Too many Iraqis are ready to stop the madness, it's just a question of who gets to be on their one dollar bill.
Frederick Kagan does the proper serious look at this at NRO.