Bush considering cutting Iraq troop levels by half next year

There’s something familiar about this. From the Times piece that Drudge has been splashing for the past 16 hours:

The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate…

The mission would instead focus on the training of Iraqi troops and fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, while removing Americans from many of the counterinsurgency efforts inside Baghdad

Missing from much of the current discussion is talk about the success of democracy in Iraq, officials say, or even of the passage of reconciliation measures that Mr. Bush said in January that the troop increase would allow to take place. In interviews, many senior administration and military officials said they now doubted that those political gains, even if achieved, would significantly reduce the violence.

Compare that to the Iraq plan that Hillary laid out for the Times in an interview in March:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton foresees a ”remaining military as well as political mission” in Iraq, and says that if elected president, she would keep a reduced military force there to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military.

In a half-hour interview on Tuesday in her Senate office, Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain would stay off the streets in Baghdad and would no longer try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence — even if it descended into ethnic cleansing.

And now compare it to pages 49 and 50 of the Baker-Hamilton report that was released in January:

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I guess Bush figures if he makes concessions to the “realist” position, particularly by adopting the plan outlined by the likely party nominee, the Democrats will have to abandon their goal of total withdrawal and support it as a “reasonable” compromise. Half a solution is better than nothing, in other words — unless it ends up getting American troops killed while doing nothing to prevent civil war.

Another one of B-H’s key recommendations was negotiations with Iran, you’ll recall. Those start Monday. In apparent honor of the occasion, the State Department announced today that a committee it had set up last year to coordinate aggressive action against Iran and Syria is being formally disbanded. Quote: “A senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said the group was shut down because of a widespread public perception that it was designed to enact regime change. State Department officials have said the focus of the Iran-Syria group was persuading the two regimes to change their behavior, not toppling them.”

Meanwhile, U.S. troops welcomed Sadr back today by killing five “gunmen” in Sadr City and arresting a capo suspected of links to the Revolutionary Guard. That’s the second high-profile hit on the Mahdi Army in as many days, yesterday’s killing of the JAM commander in Basra being the first. The local Sadrist goons promised revenge last night, and today they delivered by bombarding the British base. For their trouble they received a care package from the Royal Air Force. The unstable “stability” in Basra might be just about over now.