Over the past month there has been a definite change in the US administration policy of troop levels in Iraq. The surge is over and political pragmatism underpins troop reductions.
On September 13 Bush said that about 30,000 troops might return home by summer 2008 (pre-surge level), starting with 5,700 by Christmas. Then on 14 September Defence Secretary Robert Gates suggested the current level of more than 160,000 soldiers could be cut to about 100,000 by the end of 2008.
While both Gates and Bush stressed that any reduction in troop levels would be entirely dependent on the success of their mission, it appears that troop reduction is also driven by political pragmatism: high troop levels in Iraq are increasingly unpopular with Americans and Iraq solutions are more dependent on regional multilateral cooperation than soldiers. These statements also come as a White House report (Final Benchmarks Assessment Report)suggested Iraq’s government has made little progress in meeting key military and political benchmarks set by the US.