US military drafts plan to keep troops in Iraq until mid-2009
Yahoo News/AFP
July 24, 2007

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States military command in Iraq has drafted a plan that envisages US troops staying in the country for another two years, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The strategy document calls for restoring security in Baghdad and other local areas by the summer of 2008 and for "sustainable security" to be achieved across Iraq by the summer of 2009, the newspaper wrote, citing unnamed US officials.

The plan builds on the "surge" strategy set out by President George W. Bush in January when he deployed additional US combat troops to Iraq.

The blueprint was developed by the commander of US troops in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and the US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and has been presented to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the newspaper said.

The strategy, entitled "Joint Campaign Plan", comes as lawmakers in Congress have pushed for a timetable to start withdrawing US troops and pronounced Bush's surge policy a failure.

Bush's strategy and the latest plan are based on the idea that containing violence and protecting the population will isolate insurgents, providing the conditions needed for Iraqi political factions to achieve reconciliation, the paper said.

An interim report from the Bush administration earlier this month said the Iraqi government was making only paltry progress towards reconciliation.

The plan does not call for specific troop levels or timetables for the withdrawal of the 160,000-strong force, the newspaper said. But it does anticipate a decline in the level of US forces after the current surge "runs its course" later this year or by early 2008, the newspaper said.

The plan foresees two steps with a short-term goal to achieve "localized security" in Baghdad and other areas no later than June 2008, with political accommodation encouraged at the local level while continuing to press national leaders to move towards reconciliation, it said.

The second step or "intermediate" goal would attempt to build on local deals to forge nationwide security by June 2009.

The plan is expected to be formally issued to officials in Baghdad this week, the paper wrote.

In September, General Petraeus and the US ambassador are due to deliver an assessment of the surge strategy in what is expected to be a pivotal moment for Bush as he tries to fend off attempts by Democrats in Congress to force a withdrawal of US troops.

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