Countdown to Withdrawal from Iraq

How long will the United States maintain a large deployment of troops in Iraq? That is now the central question of George W. Bush’s second term. Until recently, the Bush administration answered with an evasive cliché: “as long as it takes and not one day longer.” But not anymore.

The ice began to crack on November 17, when Representative John Murtha, a hawkish Democratic congressman and marine veteran, suggested pulling troops out of Iraq in six months. Soon after, the Republican-controlled Senate voted for “a significant transition to full Iraq sovereignty in 2006.” After initial resistance, Bush began to change his rhetoric by suggesting that a troop drawdown would occur sooner than previously expected.

The erosion in public support for Bush’s Iraq policy is stark. Fifty-four percent of Americans now say that the US erred in sending troops, up from 24% at the start of the war in March 2003. In part, this reflects the rising casualty rate, with more than 2,100 American soldiers killed thus far.

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