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Security politics


The White House and Democratic lawmakers continue to dispute the meaning of Britain's withdrawal of 1,600 troops from Iraq.  Vice President Cheney told ABC that it's "an affirmation of the fact that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well."  Democrats argue that it's a sign of recognition from a key ally that things are going pretty poorly.

The Washington Post says that while National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley called it "'basically a good-news story'… for an already besieged White House, the decision was doing a good job masquerading as a bad-news story…  No matter the military merits, the British move, followed by a similar announcement by Denmark, roiled the political debate in Washington at perhaps the worst moment for the White House…  Republicans were put back on their heels, just as they were beginning to feel more confident that the fight over war strategy was shifting their way." 

"The Bush administration maintained yesterday that its Iraq coalition was still in good shape despite announcements by Britain," Denmark, and Lithuania "that they would withdraw all or some of their troops by the end of the year," says the Washington Times

A New York Daily News analysis notes that several Bush political sources believe Britain's decision "emboldens congressional critics of Bush's escalation who say the war is going poorly - and adds to the pressure on the President to reverse the bad news from the killing fields.  'He's got until summertime to show some results, and if he doesn't, he's got to start pulling out, too,' one of the President's closest associates said yesterday.  'The fact of the matter is, most of the public isn't with him now, and the rest aren't going to stay with him unless this last-chance surge works.'" 

The AP covers Cheney arriving in Australia, "an ally that has become a rarity by offering more, not fewer, troops for Iraq and Afghanistan…  Cheney's visit also would lend some heavyweight support for [Prime Minister John] Howard, who recently drew allegations of partisanship and an unwarranted incursion into U.S. politics by criticizing [Obama's] plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq." 

Per the pool report, Cheney's speech to US troops based in Guam was "largely a repeat" of his remarks to the troops on the USS Kitty Hawk.  Bloomberg covers Cheney's waning influence back home as he seeks to rally support among US allies for the war in Iraq. 

The New York Times writes that the Pentagon "is planning to send more than 14,000 National Guard troops back to Iraq next year, shortening their time between deployments to meet the demands of President Bush's buildup…  The accelerated timetable illustrates the cascading effect that the White House plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq by more than 21,000 is putting on the entire Army and in particular on Reserve forces…  It also highlights the political risks of the White House's Iraq strategy.  Sending large numbers of reservists to Iraq in the middle of next year's election campaign could drive up casualties among part-time soldiers in communities where support for the administration's approach in Iraq is already tenuous."  

The San Francisco Chronicle covers Pelosi's reaction to Cheney's comment that Pelosi's and Rep. John Murtha's (D) plans on Iraq validate al Qaeda's strategy to break the will of the American people and force the United States to quit in Iraq.  "An angry Pelosi slashed back at Cheney, complaining that the vice president stepped over the line by questioning her patriotism, especially while on a foreign trip, and vowed to call Bush to complain."