Sunday, May 20, 2007

British Troops Going Home, Why Not U.S.?

The Sunday Telegraph is reporting that White House officials have briefed President Bush to expect an announcement on British troop withdrawals when Gordon Brown becomes prime minister.

The President recently discussed with a senior White House adviser how to handle the fallout from the expected loss of Washington's main ally in Iraq, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

Details of the talks came as a close ally of Mr Brown called for a quicker withdrawal of British troops. Nigel Griffiths, a former minister, said: "We should get out of Iraq as soon as is practicable. We should consult the Iraqi government - but they cannot have a veto. This cannot be delayed."

Mr Griffiths, who resigned as deputy leader of the Commons this year over the decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, spoke out as reports suggested that Mr Brown would use an early trip to Iraq to reassess Britain's role and accelerate the withdrawal. Revelation of the US fears will reinforce expectations in Westminster that Mr Brown will make a decisive break with Mr Blair's support for the war.
The paper also reports that officials in the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department in Washington have expressed fears about Brown, believing he will not be as strong an ally as Tony Blair.
Nor is Mr Brown seen as a reliable ally in resisting Iranian attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. "If they decided to strike Iran's military facilities and Brown didn't allow the use of British bases, this is an issue that could divide the alliance," a source with security connections said.
Meanwhile, the outgoing defence attaché at the British Embassy in Baghdad says the U.S. surge isn't working.
Speaking on the record last week to a public audience at Chatham House, the London-based foreign-policy research institute, he said: "The evidence does not suggest that the surge is actually working, if reduction in casualties is a criterion. The figures in April were not encouraging."

In unusually candid comments, Mr Campbell also disclosed that American commanders had decided that the criteria for the "success" of the troop surge would be nothing more than a reduction in violence to the level prior to last year's al-Qaeda bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, which destroyed its golden dome.

The destruction of the shrine, one of the most important Shia sites in the world, led to a dramatic escalation in sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia factions, peaking at 3,500 deaths in September last year. Casualty figures had been running at 800 a month before that, a level that few would regard as anything approaching peace.
According the Bush administration, "success" in Iraq now means reducing the number of murders to fewer than 800 per month.

How many more Americans must die to achieve that "success?"

[cross-posted at The Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus]