The Times's Steven Lee Meyers reports the White House is considering accelerating the pace of the pullout beginning in September, a striking reversal from the policies of the war back in 2006 and 2007. Factors include the desire to shift more troops to Afghanistan and accede to the Pentagon's wishes to ease some strain on the Army. It's also two months before a presidential election, but I'm sure this White House would never, ever play politics with matters of war and state, right? Right? Bush is reportedly mulling pulling out as many as three of the 15 combat brigades currently in Iraq, leaving between 120,000 and 130,000 American troops there at the end of his term. (That's still a lot of troops, by the way.) Meyers gently hints at the politics behind the possible pullout, noting it could help McCain by showing the surge works and defusing anti-war sentiment. Attention already seems to be shifting to Afghanistan, with the USS Abraham Lincoln shifted from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea to provide more support for that war.
Karen DeYoung of the Post has a front-pager that's a doozy: The U.S. and Iraq have abandoned efforts to get a long-term Status of Forces Agreement before the end of Bush's presidency, meaning the next president gets to settle that. Baghdad and Washington will instead work on a "bridge" agreement that would allow the U.S. to continue operating in Iraq past the Dec. 31 expiration of the current United Nations mandate. Details are light on what, exactly, led to the abandonment of Bush's goal, but DeYoung says blame falls on the Iraqis, who refused to accept the U.S. demands. (Sounds like blame should also fall on the Americans for pressing for too much.) The bridge agreement will likely only cover 2009 and include a "time horizon," with specific goals for U.S. troop withdrawal from Baghdad and other cities. There will also be specific dates as well, but will so conditioned on Iraqi performance that they'll likely be meaningless. One U.S. official referred to the new agreement as an effort to "rebrand" the SOFA and take the heat of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Ian Austen of the Times reports that Canada is becoming more unfriendly to U.S. deserters looking for a safe haven from prosecution back home. No deserters have been deported from Canada but the courts have been trying. The nine cases are all currently tied up in appeals. It's not a big problem, however. Probably only about 200 Americans have fled to Canada to escape U.S. military justice. During the Vietnam War, up to 32,000 young men fled north to escape the war.
Meanwhile over in Iraq, the Times's Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Ali Hameed report that the Anbar Provincial Council asked the U.S. military to delay handing over security responsibility for the largely Sunni province until at least the end of the year. Huh? It's a reflection of the bitter politics playing out between the Iraqi Islamic Party -- which controls the council -- and the Awakening Council, which controls security. The chairman of the Provincial Council said security forces weren't ready yet and the handover should wait until after the provincial elections. Anbar's provincial police chief is an Awakening man, however, and says the delay is an attempt by the IIP to skew the coming elections by replacing him with someone weaker.
IN OTHER COVERAGE
David Ignatius nods approvingly at the U.S. Army's tradition of learning from mistakes. He reports on the "On Point II" report released last month.
Post photographer Warren Zinn reflects on the image he took of Army Medic Joseph Dwyer in April 2003. The photo made Dwyer famous, an icon of the early days of the war, but it did little to soothe the actual man. Last week, Dwyer killed himself after struggling with depression and PTSD. Zinn worries that his photo may have contributed to Dwyer's pain. The medic reportedly hated the fame that came from the photo, which was splashed across dozens of American newspapers. It's a moving essay, and one that cuts to the heart of the tangled relationship between journalists and their subjects, especially in wrenching situations such as war and combat.
Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history and fellow at the Baker Institute at Rice University, reviews "Standard Operating Procedure" by Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris. There have already been numerous reviews of the film and book, and this is yet one more.
Tom Shales, Style columnist, has another piece on HBO's "Generation Kill." This series is getting more play than the real war.
Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Wall Street Journal
No Sunday edition.