White House agrees with Biden's withdrawl plan?
US reveals blueprint for Iraq pullout
Sunday 27 November 2005, 9:12 Makka Time, 6:12 GMT
The White House has announced its plans to withdraw
from Iraq, saying that a blueprint advocated last week
by a Democratic senator was "remarkably similar" to
It also signalled its acceptance of a recent US Senate
amendment designed to pave the way for a phased US
military withdrawal from the country.
The statement by Scott McClellan, the White House
spokesman, came in response to a commentary published
in The Washington Post by Joseph Biden, the top
Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in
which he said US forces will begin leaving Iraq next
year "in large numbers".
According to Biden, the US will remove about 50,000
servicemen from the country by the end of 2006, and "a
significant number" of the remaining 100,000 the year
The blueprint also calls for leaving only an
unspecified "small force" in Iraq to strike at
fighters, if necessary.
Less than two weeks ago, McClellan criticised John
Murtha, a Democratic Representative, saying that his
call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, endorsed
"the policy positions of Michael Moore", a stridently
anti-war Hollywood filmmaker.
However, Biden's ideas, relayed first in a speech in
New York on 21 November, were more warmly received.
Even though President George Bush has never publicly
issued his own withdrawal plan and criticised calls
for an early exit, the White House said many of the
ideas expressed by the senator were his own.
In the statement, released under the headline "Senator
Biden adopts key portions of administration's plan for
victory in Iraq", McClellan said the Bush
administration welcomed Biden's voice in the debate.
"Today, Senator Biden described a plan remarkably
similar to the administration's plan to fight and win
the war on terror," the spokesman said.
He said that as Iraqi security forces gained strength
and experience, "we can lessen our troop presence in
the country without losing our capability to
effectively defeat the terrorists".
McClellan said the White House now saw "a strong
consensus" building in Washington in favour of Bush's
strategy in Iraq.
The Biden plan calls for preparatory work to the
envisaged withdrawal to be done in the first six
months of next year. It includes:
* Forging a compromise among Iraqi factions, under
which the Sunnis must accept that they no longer rule
Iraq, and Shia and Kurds admit them into a
* Building Iraq's governing capacity
* Transferring authority to Iraqi security forces
* Establishing a contact group of the world's
major powers to become the Iraqi government's primary
The White House statement also embraced a Senate
amendment to a defence authorisation bill
overwhelmingly passed by the Senate on 15 November
that called for the administration to make 2006 "a
period of significant transition to full Iraqi
sovereignty" thereby creating conditions "for the
phased redeployment of United States forces from
Reprimand to Bush
The measure was largely seen as a reprimand to the
Bush administration, often accused of lacking a viable
strategy in Iraq.
But the White House again said the Senate was reading
from its own playbook.
"The fact is that the Senate amendment reiterates the
president's strategy in Iraq," the statement said.
The Bush administration has been steadily moving
towards a reduction of US troops in Iraq, and
Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, spoke last week
of a reduction in the US presence for the first time.
Her remarks contrasted sharply with her refusal last
month to tell a Senate panel whether US troops would
be out in a decade, acknowledging that anti-US attacks
would continue "for quite a long time".