Iraqi Prime Minister says U.S. Troops Can Go 'Anytime They Want'
Al-Maliki sought to display confidence at a time when pressure is mounting in Congress for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. forces. On Thursday, the House passed a measure calling for the United States to withdraw its troops by spring, hours after the White House reported mixed progress by the Iraqi government toward meeting 18 benchmarks.
During a news conference, al-Maliki shrugged off the progress report, saying that difficulty in enacting the reforms was "natural" given Iraq's turmoil.
"We are not talking about a government in a stable political environment, but one in the shadow of huge challenges," al-Maliki said. "So when we talk about the presence of some negative points in the political process, that's fairly natural."
Liberal Catnip has an interesting angle on al-Maliki's strategy:
"As for al-Maliki trying to assure those who favour troop withdrawals ASAP, he knows that as long as Bush is around that isn't going to happen. If he truly believes Iraq is ready to go it alone (which it never actually will since US troops are posed to be there for years as "support" for the government), he should put his money where his mouth is and just kick them out. He'd even win back al Sadr's support if he made such a move and that would definitely bring progress on the political and insurgency front. But al -Maliki will not be allowed to do that as long as his government has not passed the oil law in order to appease Bush and his war-profiteering buddies. Forget about the September "progress report". The turning point in this war will begin the day that oil law is passed since that's all this war has been about since day one."