Blair wants out of Iraq within 16 months

From a report in the Guardian:

Tony Blair yesterday shifted ground on the continuing presence of British troops in Iraq by saying it was government policy to leave the country within 10 to 16 months – so long as the security situation allowed.

The prime minister also agreed with the chief of the general staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, that the presence of British forces could become a provocation, but disagreed with Gen Dannatt by insisting it was still the government’s aim to secure a liberal democracy in Iraq.

The stipulation about the security situation keeps Blair in line with Bush administration policy. Setting a date, however, is new — at least at this level. Blair “added that in August General George Casey, US commander of forces in Iraq, also called for a withdrawal over 12 to 18 months.” A commission headed by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker is likely to recommend seeking cooperation from Iran and Syria to stabilize the security situation in Iraq but it is unclear the Bush administration will accept this recommendation. “This is something you listen to seriously, but we are not going to outsource the business of handling the war in Iraq,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

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