NBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked Gen. David Petraeus whether 16 months is a reasonable time to get U.S. troops out of Iraq:
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: It depends on the conditions, depends on the missions set, depends on the enemy. The enemy does get a vote and is sometimes an independent variable. Lots of different factors I think that would be tied up in that. The dialogue on that and the amount of risk, because it eventually comes down to how much risk various options entail. That’s the kind of discussion I think that is very important as we look to the future.
MITCHELL: What do you do when you’ve got Maliki saying we want a more rapid withdrawal? When the Iraq government wants troops out, how do we continue to justify staying?
GEN. PETRAEUS: Well what Prime Minister Maliki has said, and let’s remember that there are many factors that are involved, one very important is domestic politics in Iraq. He is understandably and rightly endeavoring to show that this is an Iraq with sovereign Iraqi government making sovereign decisions – and discussing time horizons which is a term that has been used, aspirations of those, I think is very appropriate. We should really see that as a sign of progress. For a long, we used to say “when is this sovereign government going to make some sovereign decisions.” Well they have done that, they did that in Basra, for example, and it turned out to be a very important decision, a courageous one.
MITCHELL: But their decision on this timeline, where he is saying publicly on this timeline of withdrawal is in conflict with the U.S. military’s projection of when they will be really ready to really take over.
GEN. PETRAEUS: Again, what he has said is not set a timeline or a timetable – he said time horizons- which again, we tend to think there’s nothing wrong with talking about time horizons. Again, what you do is you make assumptions, you talk about conditions, he’s still talking about them, conditions permitting, and that is a kind of dialogue that’s going on between those who are negotiating the strategic framework agreement. And again, you do have to understand the factors and the background in which all of this is taking place in Iraq, as well as in our own country and coalition countries.