The Bush administration is drafting a timetable that includes specific milestones for the Iraqi government to address sectarian divisions and assume a larger role in securing the country, The New York Times reported in its Sunday editions.
Citing senior U.S. officials, the Times said details of the plan, to be presented to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki before the end of the year and carried out over the next year and beyond, were still being worked out.
“We’re trying to come up with ways to get the Iraqis to step up to the plate, to push them along, because the time is coming,” the paper quoted a senior Bush administration official as saying. “We can’t be there forever.”
Administration denies timetable
But a White House spokeswoman disputed the account.
“The story is not accurate, but we are constantly developing new tactics to achieve our goal,” White House spokeswoman Nicole Guillemard said.
“We’ve been coordinating with the Iraqis for months on a series of measures they can take to assume more control of their country, and to form the basis for a national compact between all communities in Iraq on the way forward.”
According to the newspaper, officials said that for the first time Iraq would likely be asked to agree to a schedule of specific milestones, like disarming sectarian militias, and to a broad set of other political, economic and military benchmarks intended to stabilize the country.
Penalties, contingencies considered
The Times said the blueprint was being formulated by General George Casey and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq, along with unnamed Pentagon officials.
And while the administration will not threaten to withdraw U.S. troops, several officials told the Times it would consider changing military strategy or taking other measures if Iraq balked at adopting it or failed to meet critical benchmarks.
The Times cited a senior Pentagon official involved in drafting the blueprint as saying Iraqi officials were being consulted on the plan and would be asked to sign off on the milestones before year’s end.
“If the Iraqis fail to come back to us on this, we would have to conduct a reassessment” of U.S. strategy, it cited the official as saying.