NEW YORK, Nov. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad tells Newsweek that he has received explicit permission from President Bush to begin a diplomatic dialogue with Iran, which has meddled politically in Iraq, to help secure Iraq after U.S. troop phased drawdown. "I've been authorized by the president to engage the Iranians as I engaged them in Afghanistan directly," Khalilzad says. "There will be meetings, and that's also a departure and an adjustment."
Khalilzad also tells Newsweek the dangers of a panicky pullout of U.S. troops could bring the region. "People need to be clear what the stakes are here," he says. "If we were to do a premature withdrawal, there could be a Shia-Sunni war here that could spread beyond Iraq. And you could have Iran backing the Shias and Sunni Arab states backing the Sunnis. You could have a regional war that could go on for a very long time, and affect the security of oil supplies. Terrorists could take over part of this country and expand from here. And given the resources of Iraq, given the technical expertise of its people, it will make Afghanistan look like child's play."
In the new year, there will be a new coherent strategy on the ground in Iraq, largely the handiwork of Gen. George Casey, commander of the Multinational Forces, and Khalilzad, report Senior Editor Michael Hirsh, Baghdad Bureau Chief Scott Johnson and Jerusalem Bureau Chief Kevin Peraino in the December 5 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, November 28). Their overall strategy will be for U.S. troops "to clear, hold and build" while training up Iraqi forces; wean Sunni leaders from their support of the insurgency; and on the U.S. domestic front, appease rising outcries for withdrawal by reducing the U.S. presence in Iraq to under 100,000 troops -- hopefully by midterm Election Day 2006. "There is an idea that there is no plan, and we believe we do have a plan," Khalilzad says. "We've worked very hard in the last four months to come up with a plan, and we're talking about how to communicate that more effectively to the Congress."
The Pentagon's plans call for U.S numbers to be reduced back down to around 138,000 by the new year (troop totals are now edging up to 160,000 leading into the December election). Then, under what the Pentagon calls a "moderately optimistic" scenario -- but the one it considers most likely -- 20,000 to 30,000 more troops would come out by the mid-2006, with a further goal of phasing down the U.S. presence to 80,000 to 100,000 by "late next year." As additional evidence of its intentions, the Defense Department quietly announced on Nov. 7 the major units scheduled to deploy to Iraq in the next big rotation, starting in late summer next year. Those units add up to 92,000 U.S. troops in 2007, Newsweek reports.
Newsweek's Article: The New Way Out
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