Two senior defense officials told a House committee today that Iraq’s growing security forces should be able to take full responsibility for internal security sometime between early 2009 and 2012, but they declined to predict when U.S. military personnel could withdraw from the country.
In a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, the officials also said that Iraq would not be able to defend itself against external threats for at least another 10 to 12 years. They said that does not necessarily mean U.S. troops must remain in Iraq until then, although it was likely that forces would at least need to stay in the region for years to come.
Among those pressing for answers on when the U.S. presence in Iraq “will no longer be needed” was Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.), who told the panel, “I think all Americans would like to have on their refrigerator a chart which they can follow that looks to a time that we can get out.” He asked Dubik, “So what is that number that they can have on the refrigerator that we’re marching toward, that when we get there we’re coming home?”
Dubik replied, “Sir, when I talk to my dad about these kinds of things, my advice to him is put no number on the refrigerator.”
“Does that mean we’re going to be there forever?” Bartlett countered.
“No, sir, that does not,” Dubik said.