Q: When are US forces pulling out of Iraq?
Well, they are going to be drawing down over time as conditions permit and military commanders and the Embassy in Baghdad are working with the Iraqi government to determine what those conditions are and in what case that would be appropriate.
In the meantime, we have put more forces in for the referendum in October and the election coming in December so we are up from 138,000 to 160,000 and we’ll be going down from 160,000 back to 138,000 after the December 15 elections. But reductions beyond that are things the President will decide based on the recommendations from the battlefield commanders.
My guess is we’ll continue to find that the conditions will permit reductions as Iraqi Security Forces continue to grow.
Q: What’s your take on the [inaudible] that military officers requested more troops and been turned down?
In fact, no military officer has been turned down needing additional troops at the senior levels. I don’t doubt for a minute that if you have a captain or a major or a lieutenant colonel somewhere in that country that at some moment they need more forces to do this or do that and they ask for them and the senior commanders decide how they want to allocate forces they have and they move the 160,000 forces around depending on the conditions on the ground. So it’s perfectly plausible that colonels have asked from time to time for forces and have gotten them or not gotten them depending on General Casey or General Vines’ decisions. Any implication that there has been a request for additional forces by General Casey or General Abizaid that has been turned down is just flat not true.
Q: Isn’t Iraq in the middle of a civil war and isn’t the US presence exacerbating that by being there?
A: Well, no. Iraq is not in the middle of a civil war at the present time. There are obvious tensions in the various regions between the Sunnis, the Shia, the Kurds and there have been hostilities between them from time to time. But basically you have got insurgents and terrorists that are trying to start a civil war. They are going out and killing people and suicide bombers are blowing up people inside of mosques and trying to [inaudible] but fortunately, it hasn’t happened. The leadership has been measured and balanced and calm and that’s been a big help. People are behaving reasonably well -- the leadership [inaudible].