"In public, President Bush has firmly dismissed the mounting calls to set a deadline to begin a withdrawal from Iraq, declaring eight days ago that there was only one test for when the time is right. 'When our commanders on the ground tell me that Iraqi forces can defend their freedom,' he told American forces at Osan Air Base in South Korea, 'our troops will come home with the honor they have earned.'
"But in private conversations, American officials are beginning to acknowledge that a judgment about when withdrawals can begin is driven by two political calendars - one in Iraq and one here - as much as by those military assessments. The final decision, they said, could well hinge on whether the new Iraqi government, scheduled to be elected in less than three weeks, issues its own call for an American withdrawal. Last week, for the first time, Iraq's political factions, represented by about 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal."So, when are the troops supposed to come home?
- Bush: When Iraq no longer needs American troops to defend itself.
- "Reality": When Iraq declares it no longer needs American troops to defend itself.