Casey, Rumsfeld: No Recommendations Yet on Troop Numbers in Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 22, 2006 The commander of coalition forces in Iraq gave two thumbs down today to the idea of setting a specific timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.
"I don't like it," Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, told Pentagon reporters. "It would limit my flexibility. I think it would give the enemy a fixed timetable, and I think it would send a terrible signal to a government of national unity in Iraq that's trying to get its legs underneath it."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who joined Casey at the podium, said U.S. leaders have asked Casey and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his new ministers "to develop a way ahead that they're comfortable with and that we're comfortable (with)" concerning the U.S. presence in Iraq.
"We expect that General Casey will come back and make a recommendation after he's had those discussions, which he has not yet had," the secretary said.
"I'm confident that we'll be able to continue to take reductions over the course of this year," Casey said, tying this measure to the security situation in Iraq and progress of its security forces. "I think there will be continued gradual reductions here as the Iraqis take on a larger and larger role."
U.S. force strength is currently about 126,000, down from 138,000, Casey noted.
The U.S. drawdown, when it occurs, "will very likely not be a steady path down," Rumsfeld said. "It could very likely be a drawdown with an increase, if you think about it."
He noted that Casey has several times requested additional forces: in 2005 during Iraq's January elections, October referendum and December elections, and most recently when its new government stood up.
So the current troop number in Iraq "could very well go back up at some point," Rumsfeld said. "It very likely will go down and up and down and up, depending on the circumstances and depending on the need."