WASHINGTON -- A deadline on pulling out U.S. troops from Iraq would simply encourage the enemy, defense leaders said today.
Nothing would make terrorists happier than a U.S. deadline on pulling troops from the country, said Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita and Joint Staff Operations Chief Marine Lt. Gen. James Conway.
The men spoke at a Pentagon press conference.
Conway said U.S. commanders in Iraq would not welcome an artificially imposed deadline. "They have their plan; it's a plan for victory," he said. "And forces will be withdrawn when victory is accomplished between U.S. and Iraqi forces."
Since the start of the global war on terrorism, U.S. officials maintained that troop withdrawals will be event driven and not dependent on a deadline. Di Rita pointed out that U.S. troops in Bosnia were supposed to be withdrawn after one year in country. There are still some 200 U.S. servicemembers there.
Conway said the enemy studies the U. S. just as it studies them. "They see where we have withdrawn previously -- in Vietnam, in Beirut, in Somalia," he said. "Nothing would make them happier, I suppose, than to think that there is a deadline out there, there's a time and distance factor associated with it, and then ... they simply are able to wait us out."
The insurgents' tactics keep changing, Conway said. They first launched attacks against coalition bases, but that tactic failed, he said. They next targeted Iraqi security forces and had some success, but the ISF now can defend itself. "They are, unfortunately, able to succeed in even greater rates against defenseless women and children forming in lines at the bank or in the marketplace," he said.
The insurgents succeed when they commit a spectacular attack, but the tactic is backfiring. More and more Iraqis are appalled at the carnage the insurgents commit and are turning in the insurgents. "We have seen some evidence of that," Conway said. "The issue is ... that people are getting fed up with the attacks on civilians, and even the insurgent groups are warring amongst themselves over this continuous slaughter of Iraqis. So there is some fragmentation that we're seeing."