While true believers like Donald Sensing continue to find reason to believe that things are getting better all the time in Iraq, the steady drip, drip of reality tells a different story. From the AP (via The Guardian): U.S. gen. pulls back on Iraq withdrawal.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Iraqi battalions capable of combat without U.S. support has dropped from three to one, the top American commander in Iraq told Congress Thursday, prompting Republicans to question whether U.S. troops will be able to withdraw next year.
Gen. George Casey, softening his previous comments that a “fairly substantial” pull out could begin next spring and summer, told lawmakers that troops might begin coming home from Iraq next year depending on conditions during and after the upcoming elections there.
“The next 75 days are going to be critical for what happens,” Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Bush administration says training Iraqi security forces to defend their own country is the key to bringing home U.S. troops. But Republicans pressed Casey on whether the United States was backsliding in its efforts to train Iraqis.
In June, the Pentagon told lawmakers that three Iraqi battalions were fully trained, equipped and capable of operating independently. On Thursday, Casey said only one battalion is ready.
“It doesn’t feel like progress,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Robin Wright weighs in with this cheery item: More violence to follow, Bush warns.
Oh, hey, thanks for the warning, Mr. President. But you know what? We actually knew that already. In fact, we’ve known it for, oh, say, the last two years.
I found this part of the article especially disturbing:
For all the public confidence, however, the Bush administration in private is nervous about this sensitive last stage, which will establish whether Iraq’s disparate religious and ethnic factions can stay together in a single nation — and whether civil war can be avoided, according to U.S. officials and experts on Iraq.
The administration has come under growing pressure at home and abroad over the past two weeks, with dire warnings from Arab allies and a prominent international group about the looming disintegration of Iraq. In an unusual public rebuke of U.S. policy, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister called a news conference in Washington last week to predict Iraq’s dissolution. He said there is no leadership or momentum to pull Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds back together and prevent a civil war. Other countries have expressed similar concerns in private, according to U.S. and Arab diplomats.
Attention Bush team: You’re not getting Humpty back together again. He’s an omelette. In fact, he was an omelette in the summer of 2003. Now he’s a blackened crust that has charred onto the surface of the pan.
Bush is out of options. Iraq has been systematically turned into a failed state that will serve as a breeding ground for anti-US terror for years to come. Or, to trot out still another metaphor, Iraq is Louisiana, and Bush is Michael Brown on the weekend after the storm, doing the deer-in-the-headlights thing as he repeats the same empty phrases into the camera.