Responding to a British news report, the U.S. Defense Department says it has no specific plans to withdraw troops from Iraq. A spokesman says there are plans for various contingencies, but any withdrawal will depend on the security, political and economic situation.
Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman says there is no firm plan for a withdrawal. Several U.S. military generals in Iraq have predicted there could be some reduction of coalition forces by the middle of next year. But, as U.S. officials including President Bush have done in the past, Mr. Whitman stressed that any withdrawal will depend on the situation in Iraq, not on any pre-determined timetable.
"The size of the U.S. presence in Iraq is going to be determined by the conditions on the ground. Not only security, but the political process moving forward, economic development and reconstruction, and the nature of the insurgency are all factors that determine what the conditions are on the ground and will determine what is the appropriate size of the coalition," said Mr. Whitman.
Mr. Whitman was responding to a report in Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper, which said there is a secret plan for the withdrawal of U.S. and British troops from Iraq. Mr. Whitman would not comment on the British document on which the newspaper report is based, but he says the United States routinely makes contingency plans, which may or may not ever be implemented.
"This is the United States Defense Department," he said. "We make plans for every contingency. We make plans for the possibility needing an increased size of forces, based on the conditions on the ground. We make plans for a reduced commitment of forces on the ground, if that's what the conditions dictate, as well as plans for a steady state. It does little good to speculate at what a particular force sizes might be into the future without looking at the conditions as we go forward."
The Pentagon spokesman says U.S. commanders in Iraq are working hard to train Iraq's new security forces, and regularly assess the whether any change in the numbers or skills of foreign forces is needed. He said as the Iraqi forces and government continue to improve their performance, fewer foreign forces will be needed, but he stressed there is no timetable for any withdrawals.