The key factor invoked by Major General Doug Lute is increased political stability as a precondition for a reduction the U.S. deployment in Iraq. In contrast, what seems to be looming in Iraq is greated sectarian fragmentation, which has been exacerbated by the failure of the Iraqis to draft a constitution that is tolerable to all of the major communities. While Lute does not address this in his comments, which are premised on positive developments, it may be more likely that a U.S. force reduction will occur in a context of civil war, which looms as a real possibility.
FT.com / Middle East & Africa / Iraq - US general sees significant withdrawal in Iraq: "He said: We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the . . . coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward.
"You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It's very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country."
While he cautioned that any troop reduction would be conditional on continued political progress and ongoing improvement in Iraqi force training, he said Centcom planners believed "the political process will play out, that we will see a constitution, that we will see, by some political machinations, the Sunnis brought into the process and we will proceed to national elections in December".
"If we see that and if we see progress on the second front, which is continued progress with the Iraqi security force next year, this time we'll be in the position to make some adjustments in our force structure."