Gwen Ifill: And then, Martha, we get to today, in which he goes to Camp Leujune and he says 'we are -- I'm going to keep another campaign promise. I said we were going to be out of Iraq in sixteen months, well, maybe eighteen months, and then he says --
Martha Raddatz: Or nineteen.
Gwen Ifill: Or nineteen. 50,000 troops are going to stay behind. But they'll be gone by 2011. Is any of this possilbe.
Martha Raddatz: I, well, I think first of all you've got to look at his language. Certainly, they're going to start the draw down. And what I've been told is in the next six months, they'll only have eight to ten thousand soldiers and Marines leaving Iraq. The bulk of the draw down that he promised will start in probably January and February and then you'll have 80,000 troops pulling out of Iraq from January to August. That would leave 50,000 trooops. The thing I would quibble with is they will no longer have combat missions. Look at what the mission will be. And General Ray Odierno sent a letter out to the troops today saying essentially their goals would be training Iraqi secruity forces, conducting coordinated counterterrorism mission and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. I don't really know how you do that without combat troops and frankly all of the US forces are trained combat troops.
Martha Raddatz, ABC News, who called it right on the draw down and how many would be left in Iraq for 'non-combat' roles, is projecting only 10,000 will leave Iraq in the next ten months. For those writing asking how to see the show, Washington Week will post the video and the transcript this afternoon. Right now, you can go to iTunes and podcast (either in video or audio) the program. For more on the podcasting (and a longer excerpt than above), you can see "TV Spotlight: Washington Week."
Noting Emily S. Rubb's New York Times online article (I don't see it in the paper -- there is nothing on Iraq in the paper this morning), James in Brighton wonders why the paper didn't cover Washington Week? (Rubb's covering Meet The Press.) They never do. That might be due to a lack of 'officials' on the program (although they also don't cover NOW on PBS or Bill Moyers Journal which also both begin airing Friday night on most PBS stations -- and both of those two shows frequently feature what could be considered 'officials' in the New York Times' sense.). It might be due to, for example, the paper's Peter Baker participating in the roundtable with Raddatz. I have no idea, but I would agree with James in Brighton that Raddatz' comments are of more interest than Robert Gates' on Meet The Press as captured by Rubb. Translation, she whitewashes what was discussed. Read her bad article and you'd never find the only thing that matters. It's the detail USA Today zooms in on in their editorial entitled "Our view on the war in Iraq: Obama declares end to U.S. presence in Iraq -- sort of:"
Despite Obama's certitude, the best answer is: maybe. Yes, the war is winding down, and Iraq is far calmer than it was two years ago. But the situation remains fluid, and Obama's commitment to get out is part goal, part guessing game.
The president's bid to fulfill the promise he made on the campaign trail — to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office — always came with a big asterisk. He would leave 35,000 to 50,000 "non-combat" troops in Iraq well beyond that promised drawdown period, now extended from 16 to 19 months. That's about a third of the 142,000 troops there now. What's more, the drawdown will be back-loaded, with troops leaving only slowly until after national elections this December.
And when would those "non-combat" troops come home? Under a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government, by the end of 2011. Even that isn't set in concrete, however. "If we're there beyond that, it'll be because of a new agreement ... negotiated with President Obama and based on what he thinks is in the best interests of our country," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday on Meet the Press.
That last paragraph excerpted above? Rubb 'misses' that. And this wasn't Gates' first time underscoring that point -- or even first time in the last few days. From Friday's snapshot:
Status of Forces Agreement? What SOFA? Gates: "I think what he was referring to was that under the terms of the Status Of Forces Agreement, which is what we are operating under now, all US forces must be out by the end of 2011. It will require a new agreement -- or it would require a new agreement, a new negotiation -- almost certainly an Iraqi initiative -- to provide for some presence beyond the end of 2011. So in the absence of that agreement, in the absence of any negotiation for such an agreement, it is in keeping with the SOFA that, to say definitively, that we will be out at the end of 2011." Did you catch the qualifiers? Asked could the US remain in Iraq past 2011, Gates responded, "Well, I think we'll have to wait and see. I mean, it's a hypothetical. The Iraqis have not said anything about that at this point. So it remains to be seen whether they will take an initiative. I think what we should be -- my own view would be that we should be prepared to have some very modest-sized presence for training and helping them with their new equipment and providing, perhaps, intelligence support and so on beyond that. But again, it's hypothetical, because such a -- no such request has been made, and no indication that it will be at this point."
Good for USA Today for (a) telling what Rubb refused to and (b) discussing the "sort of" nature of Barack's plan.
In other news, Blackwater has a loss. For the set up, let's drop back to October 8, 2007 for Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Bully Mama Interrupts Playtime" when Bully Boy Bush, desperate to upstage his daughter Jenna began fantasizing about his own big wedding
Bully Boy never got to walk down the aisle with Erik Prince and now Erik is apparently walking away from Blackwater, Xe, whatever it's called tomorrow. Reuters reports that founder and CEO since 1997 Erik Prince resigned as CEO "to focus on his efforts on a private equity venture unrelated to the company."
At the New York Times Iraq blog, Anwar Ali contributes "Madam, Your Perfume Is Divined" about a new device at a checkpoint, a 'detector,' which has been going off whenever her family goes through the checkpoint:
Each time our family's car is searched, it gives off the alarm and the guards take a long time searching the car while we are sitting in it. My husband was worried at first that we may have a sticky bomb in our car that we didn’t know about. The guards were searching the car, and sometimes my purse and bag. Yet the alarm was still on.
It turned out that the problem was the car freshening deodorant that my husband keeps in the car. We threw it away. Next day, the same problem, this time because of the scented wet tissues in the car. We handed all that to the guards.
The next day, another alarm, although I made sure to leave all suspect things at home. The problem was my headache medicine and a small bottle of nail polish in my purse.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has another announcement and pay attention to the first photo and how the person in it is billed in the KRG announcement:
The KRG’s Representative to the UK said, “Already many people from the Middle East, Europe and North America are doing business in the Kurdistan Region. We would like to see more British companies making the most of the opportunities in Kurdistan and the whole of Iraq. Stronger trade and investment ties can only add to the richness of relations between our two countries.”
Lord Tim Clement-Jones, a Liberal Democrat Peer, chaired the seminar and said, “I have been passionate about encouraging UK-Kurdistan trade ties, and have seen for myself what a good place it is to do business.”
Mr Michael Thomas, Director General of the Middle East Association, said that the Kurdistan Region was an excellent way to enter the Iraqi market, not only Kurdistan itself but also as a gateway to the rest of Iraq. He highlighted education and vocational training as good opportunities.
Mr Nijyar Shemdin, CEO of MECRI
Mr Nijyar Shemdin, the CEO of MECRI, one of the largest conglomerates in Kurdistan, pointed to the need to develop local skills, and welcomed collaboration with foreign companies that want to help build the new Iraq.
Two British companies were also invited to speak about their first-hand experiences of doing business in Kurdistan. Mr Andrew Grosse of British independent oil company Sterling Energy said that he found the regulatory and fiscal environment very positive for foreign investors. Mr Bob Haddow, Director of Middle East Minerals, discussed how to find a local partner or agent and bid for contracts in the Region.
The Kurdistan Region has been experiencing an economic boom. Energy, water management, oil and gas, power, agriculture and tourism are just some of the sectors offering opportunities. British firms such as Scott Wilson and PwC are already operating there. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice distinguishes between the Kurdistan region and the other parts of Iraq, reflecting its relative stability, peace and security.
The seminar, which was hosted and sponsored by international law firm DLA Piper and organised by the Middle East Association (MEA), the UK's leading trade association for British companies doing business in the region. Austrian Airlines, which operates scheduled flights to Erbil, also sponsored the event.
"Ms Bayan Sami." You never see that from Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs which either ignores women or refers to them all as "Mrs." whether they use that title or not and whether they are married or not. The Foreign Ministry announces more boys got together and kept women on the outside looking in:
Iraq's Ambassador to Damascus Meets President of Syrian People's Council
Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq in Damascus Dr. Alaa Al-Jawadi met with, Mr. Mahmoud al-Abrash during a visit by Mr. Jawadi to the Syrian People's Council on Monday 23/2/2009. And addressed bilateral relations between the two countries and ways to develop them that serve the interest of both countries.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mr. Al-Abrash expressed his desire to visit Iraq soon and expressed determination of the Syrian government to build better relations with Iraq, stressing importance of activating the issue of Iraqi refugees living in Syria, and the need for the Iraqi and Syrian governments attention in this matter.
On his part, Ambassador Alaa Jawadi stressed the need to give this issue attention since it is one of the priorities of the Iraqi embassy in Syria and there is direction from the Iraqi President and the Prime Minister to give attention and priority to this case to be discussed between the two countries.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Abrash expressed his desire to hold a series of meetings with the Ambassador, saying that this first meeting is the first step for future visits to discuss outstanding issues between the two countries.
Bonnie reminds that Kat's "Kat's Korner: The charity album that just takes" went up yesterday as did Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Rounding up Lucy"and, by the way, Isaiah has another comic this morning and one for Tuesday.
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