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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Iraq Study Group: Pull most troops from combat by '08

Iraq Study Group: Pull most troops from combat by '08
.Panel will urge moving most U.S. troops out of combat roles by early 2008
.Report will say new initiative on Israel-Palestinian peace process needed
.Group will recommend that U.S. talk directly with Iran and Syria
.Blunt warning: Mission will fail unless White House, Congress work together
>From Ed Henry

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a highly anticipated report being released Wednesday,
the Iraq Study Group will call for a dramatic shift in war policy by urging
the Bush administration to set a target of moving most U.S. troops out of
their combat roles by early 2008, according to two sources who have seen the
executive summary of the report.

The bipartisan panel, however, will stop short of a specific timetable for

"The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve into one of
supporting the Iraqi Army," says the report.

It adds: "It's clear the Iraqi government will need U.S. assistance for some
time to come, especially in carrying out new security responsibilities. Yet
the U.S. must not make open-ended commitments to keep large numbers of troops
deployed in Iraq." (Watch what the report will recommend)

Sources familiar with the report, which will be presented to President Bush at
the White House early Wednesday morning, said it also prods the administration
to launch a new diplomatic initiative to solve the Israel-Palestinian

The report contends the United States "cannot achieve its goals in the
Mideast" unless it embarks on a "renewed and sustained commitment to a
comprehensive peace plan on all fronts," according to the sources who have
seen the report.

As part of this initiative, the panel calls for direct talks between the
United States and Iran, as well as Syria, a move the Bush administration has
repeatedly resisted.

While the president has said his goal is to help form an Iraqi government that
can sustain and defend itself, the study group contends that cannot be
achieved without serious help from other nations in the Mideast.

"Every country has an interest in avoiding a chaotic Iraq, including all of
Iraq's neighbors," says the report.

"Iraq's neighbors and key states in and outside the region should form a
support group" to help Iraq achieve long-term security and political
reconciliation -- "neither of which it can sustain on its own," the report
concludes about the shaky government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Sources said a major theme in the report by the group, co-chaired by former
Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, is a
blunt assessment that the mission in Iraq will fail unless the Bush
administration and the newly elected Democratic Congress come together on a
bipartisan basis to deal with the declining support for the war within the
United States.

"What we recommend demands a tremendous amount of political will and
cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S.
government," says the report. "Success depends on unity of the American people
at a time of political polarization."

The report concludes ominously: "Foreign policy is doomed to failure -- as is
any action in Iraq -- if not supported by broad, sustained consensus."

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