"It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing," he said last May. "All the terrorists would have to do is mark their calendars and gather their strength -- and begin plotting how to overthrow the government and take control of the country of Iraq. I believe setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people, would encourage killers across the broader Middle East, and send a signal that America will not keep its commitments. Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure -- and that would be irresponsible."
But, from an administration that has become an expert at splitting hairs and seeing the world one way when everyone else sees it the exact opposite, this from Secretary Rice:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said Thursday in Baghdad, "We have agreed that some goals, some aspirational timetables for how that might unfold are well worth having in such an agreement." Her use of the term "aspirational" suggested that the timetables would be linked in some undisclosed way to the attainment of measurable progress in the security, political and perhaps economic fields.
Even it the timetable is aspirational (whatever the hell that means), it is still a timetable. It will be interesting to see what spin the Bush administration applies to convince people it is not a timetable. How exactly are they going to fool the terrorist into not knowing when the timetable says when American troops will be gone.
Dam Froomkin of the Post has a great story on the coverage of this story.
It's also interesting to see how McCain will spin this one. In his "what things would look like at the end of my first term" speech a few months ago McCain envisioned "winning" the war in Iraq. But troops would be out by 2013 which is two years after the Bush agreement calls for.
It looks much like what Obama is currently proposing as he said: 'They are working on a plan that looks, lo and behold, like the plan that I've been advocating. I will encourage the administration to move forward with it.'
Obama's overall draw down would be slightly quicker than the one in the Bush agreement but the agreement would move troops out of combat operations in Iraqi cities by next summer faster than envisioned by Obama.
So why the cave by the administration? Well I guess I should be charitable and say why the change of heart. It seems to me the Bush administration thought it could force down the throats of the Iraqis an agreement the Iraqis found completely intolerable. One has to wonder if this administration was a bit more forward thinking and flexible if such an agreement could not have been concluded much earlier.
It also seems the Prime Minister Maliki was playing to the home crowd when getting tough with America. There are regional elections in Iraq in the not too distant future and Maliki didn't want to appear to be America's stooge. Also the UN mandate allowing American troops to stay in Iraq expires at the end of the year. So time was running out.
Thankfully time is also running out on this administration something we can all be grateful for.