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Bush Says Withdrawal From Iraq to Be Conditions Based


The White House says a plan for a major U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq has been drafted by top commanders, but emphasizes it is one of several options under consideration.

The withdrawal plan was presented to President Bush last Friday by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey.

During a brief session with reporters, the president made clear the plan is one of several options under consideration, and a final decision will be based solely on the security situation in Iraq.

"In terms of our troop presence there, that decision will be made by General Casey, as well as the sovereign government of Iraq, based on conditions on the ground," the president said.

He said he trusts General Casey to fully assess the situation, and present a sound recommendation, one that will enable the United States to achieve victory in Iraq.

"And victory means a free government that is able to sustain itself, defend itself, it is a government that will be an ally in the war on terror," he said.

The New York Times reported Sunday that the Pentagon had drafted a plan to bring home two brigades of a few thousand soldiers from Iraq in coming months. It also said the number of combat brigades could drop from 14 to five or six next year.

General Casey hinted just prior to his meeting with the president that some sort of significant reduction in troop levels is possible in the coming months, under certain conditions.

"I am confident we will be able to continue to take reductions over the course of this year," General Casey said. "It is both the security situation and the progress of the Iraqi security forces. What we have always said was there would be gradual reduction, over time, as the Iraqi security forces assumed a larger and larger role."

White House spokesman Tony Snow says it is General Casey's job to figure out how to proceed if certain scenarios hold. But he warns, just because a withdrawal plan has been put forward does not mean it is etched in stone.