BBC News – 2007-09-06 22:58:00
Most People ‘Want Iraq Pull-out’
LONDON (September 6, 2007) — Some 39% of people in 22 countries said troops should leave now, and 28% backed a gradual pull-out. Just 23% wanted them to stay until Iraq was safe.
In the US, one-in-four supported an immediate withdrawal, while 32% wanted Iraq’s security issues to be resolved before bringing the troops home.
The BBC World Service commissioned the survey of 23,193 people. They were asked whether coalition troops should pull out of Iraq immediately, commit to a gradual withdrawal over a year, or leave when the security situation improves.
In 19 countries, the majority of those questioned believed troops should be withdrawn either immediately or within a year. Just three countries — Kenya, the Philippines and India — did not have an overall majority favoring withdrawal within a year.
Large numbers of people questioned in India (36%) declined to comment or said they “didn’t know.”
Muslim countries including Indonesia (65%), Turkey (64%) and Egypt (58%) were among those most eager for troops to be withdrawn immediately. But an immediate pull-out was much less popular in Australia (22%), the US (24%) and UK (27%) – the countries with most troops deployed in Iraq.
In recent days, leaders from the US, Australia and the UK have said troops must stay in Iraq until the country is safe. All three countries say they have a commitment to the Iraqi people to remain there until local forces are able to ensure their security.
But Doug Miller of Globescan, which carried out the research, said the results of the survey showed “the weight of global public opinion” was against them.
The respondents were also asked whether they believed the US would leave a permanent military presence in Iraq. Half of those questioned believed the US would have bases in Iraq permanently, while 36% assumed all troops would withdraw once Iraq was stabilised.
The findings suggest support for keeping foreign troops in Iraq until security has improved has fallen significantly since an earlier World Service poll released in February 2006.
The BBC’s world affairs correspondent, Nick Childs, says it is not surprising, more than four years on from a controversial invasion, that international public opinion on the foreign troop presence should now be so negative.
He added that the Bush administration has been battling perceptions that its aim has been to establish a permanent military presence in Iraq as part of a regional strategy – something it has denied.
© BBC MMVII
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US ‘Must Reduce Presence in Iraq’
(September 6, 2007) — US troops want to give Iraqi soldiers more of a lead. The US should reduce its troop presence in Iraq so as not to appear an “occupying force”, a key 20-member US security commission has recommended.
The panel of retired police and military officers told the Senate that Iraqi forces should be replacing US troops by early next year. But the report also warned Iraqi troops would not be ready to take over fully within the next 18 months. It also said the Iraqi police force was ineffective and should be scrapped. The report is the latest in a series to be considered by the US Congress as it debates the Iraq war.
The panel’s head, Gen James Jones, told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “The force footprint should be adjusted in our view to represent an expeditionary capability and to combat a permanent-force image of today’s presence.
“Significant reductions, consolidations and realignments would appear to be possible and prudent… This will make an eventual departure much easier.”
Democrats welcomed the call for a reduction of presence as supporting their plans for US redeployment. But Gen Jones did not back their call for a deadline on US troop withdrawal. “I think deadlines can work against us. I think a deadline of this magnitude would be against our national interest.”
The US has this year deployed thousands more troops to Iraq to carry out a “security surge” in and around Baghdad.
Analysts say the Jones report, released on Thursday, is not necessarily in opposition to the strategy of President George W Bush, who has supported handing over responsibilities to Iraqi troops. But the report’s verdict on the readiness of Iraqi forces to take the lead will once again raise the question of just when US troops can be safely brought home.
The Iraqi military showed signs of progress, Gen Jones said, and was “gaining size and strength, and will increasingly be capable of assuming greater responsibility”. But he said it was “not at a rate sufficient to meet their essential security responsibilities”.
He also said the national police force was ineffective and so rife with sectarianism it should be scrapped. A Pentagon official said the administration did not back such a move.
Iraq’s interior ministry told Reuters news agency that the issue of sectarianism was being tackled and that the ministry did not agree with the panel’s assessment. “We admit there were some problems before due to sectarian loyalties but this involved just a few people,” ministry spokesman Brig-Gen Abdul-Kareem Khalaf told Reuters.
But Democrats seized on the report findings to reinforce their argument that the security surge was not working.
Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said: “It is discouraging that the president stubbornly claims his failed policy is working even as this latest report describes many Iraqi security forces as focused more on fostering civil war than on suppressing it.”
But Republican Sen John McCain chided “armchair generals” in Washington who failed to “trust the judgement” of the military leaders on the ground.
The Jones report follows one by a non-partisan Congressional watchdog that found the Iraqi government was “dysfunctional” and had failed to meet 11 of 18 benchmarks set by the US.
The top US commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, are due to report to Congress next week on the progress of the Bush administration’s Iraq strategy.
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