According to right-winger Robert Novak, there's a wiff of "bug out" in the administration. While they're accusing Kerry and Edwards of wanting to cut and run, they're thinking maybe a "successful" election in January might be declared "victory."
Nokaksays "When I reported in this column Sept. 20 that there is ''strong feeling'' in the ''Bush administration policymaking apparatus'' that ''U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year,'' Republican politicians -- most recently Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman -- disagreed. But Don Rumsfeld has not contradicted me."
He quotes an interview Rumsfeld did with Rita Crosby of FOX, which I've expanded on a bit:
Q: You think we'll have a total elimination of U.S. troops?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, let me put it this way, when the United States of America puts forces into a country, we do it to try to help that country. Unlike other countries, we're not going to occupy a country or to take over their real estate. We want to go in and be helpful and leave. That's basically the American way. [Except for Hawaii and Puerto Rico and Guam and a few other places..]
And so, you know, it's conceivable there've been countries like South Korea that ask us to leave some troops there afterwards to provide a more secure environment and we've done that on occasion.
But for the most part, our hope is that we can train up enough Iraqi -- and in the case of Iraq and Afghan and in the case of Afghanistan, security forces -- so that they can take over security responsibilities for themselves. [Too bad Bremer fired the 400,000 Iraqi Army, they might be coming in handy right now.] That's the best way to do it.
Q: You've said that maybe we might pull out before conditions are, quote, "peaceful and perfect." [More untidyness?] When is the earliest that you think we could pull out of Iraq?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the president's said very correctly that we will stay there as long as we're needed and not a minute longer. Now, that part of the world tends not to be perfectly peaceful.
Q: It never will be, do you think?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It never will be, is my view. And do I think that when we leave, it will be a perfectly peaceful situation, no. I think it'll be a situation where the Iraqis have developed the ability to manage their situation from a security standpoint and we will have a mutual agreement that it makes sense now to bring down the coalition forces and leave.
Q: Could that be as early right after the elections? There is some buzz that may be right after the elections, we may see a -
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, no. No, no.
Q: Start pulling out?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No. We've already started. We had over 150,000 troops there originally and we're down to 137 right now - 137,000.
Q: Do you think we'll see more right after the elections being pulled out?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It depends totally on the security situation in the country. And we would, of course, be working with our coalition forces and bring them down at the same time we would be bringing down our own forces. And at the same time, the Iraqi Security Forces will be increasing.
They're over 100,000 [Total BS] now getting towards 150,000 by the end of this year in anticipation of the elections and then they'll go still higher or thereafter and at some point, they will be sufficient to do the job.