On the same day that President Bush said, “We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done,” MSNBC correspondent Jeannie Ohm described the reported forthcoming recommendation by the Iraq Study Group for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as “similar to what the president has been saying.”
During the November 30 edition of MSNBC Live, correspondent Jeannie Ohm described as “similar to what the president has been saying” the reported forthcoming recommendation by the Iraq Study Group (ISG) for a “phased withdrawal of U.S. troops [out of Iraq], a pullback, if you will,” that is “tied to conditions.” However, Bush stated in a press conference on November 30, held before MSNBC's report: “I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the government wants us there.”
The New York Times reported on November 30 that the ISG plans to submit the unanimous recommendations of its 10-member panel on December 6 to the president, Congress and the public. The Times said the report will recommend “a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal.” The Times article also noted Bush's November 28 statement in Latvia: "[T]here's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull the troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete."
Ohm did acknowledge that Bush was opposed to a withdrawal “relatively soon”: "[T]he big headline with the Iraq Study Group is that it will recommend a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, a pullback, if you will, that are [sic] tied to conditions. Now, that is something similar to what the president has been saying. But also it will recommend that the president make it clear to the Iraqis that he intends to start with this withdrawal relatively soon. But as you heard from the president this morning that is something he is just set against at this point." But Ohm never explained how Bush's plan was “similar” to what the ISG was recommending in light of this fact. Ohm also did not elaborate on the “conditions” that the phased withdrawal to be proposed by the ISG would be tied to. In its November 30 report, the Times described some of the characteristics of the proposed withdrawal:
The report leaves unstated whether the 15 combat brigades that are the bulk of American fighting forces in Iraq would be brought home, or simply pulled back to bases in Iraq or in neighboring countries. ... From those bases, they would still be responsible for protecting a substantial number of American troops who would remain in Iraq, including 70,000 or more American trainers, logistics experts and members of a rapid reaction force.
If Mr. Bush adopts the recommendations, far more American training teams will be embedded with Iraqi forces, a last-ditch effort to make the Iraqi Army more capable of fighting alone.
The report also would offer military commanders -- and therefore the president -- great flexibility to determine the timing and phasing of the pullback of the combat brigades.
From the November 30 edition of MSNBC Live:
OHM: Well, the big headline is there appears to be something for everyone. They are calling for a gradual major withdrawal of U.S. troops, something Democrats have been pushing for. But it stopped short of a timetable, something this administration has long opposed. Now, the recommendations, though -- it's important to note that these are nonbinding. They're an independent assessment, and that is why the White House also has its own internal review under way as well as a Pentagon review so -- to give the president more options.
In fact, the Pentagon is now even considering sending even more troops into Baghdad to improve the security situation there. But again, the big headline with the Iraq Study Group is that it will recommend a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, a pullback, if you will, that are [sic] tied to conditions. Now, that is something similar to what the president has been saying. But also, it will recommend that the president make it clear to the Iraqis that he intends to start with this withdrawal relatively soon. But as you heard from the president this morning, that is something he is just set against at this point.