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Iraq withdrawal set for review -

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Iraq withdrawal set for review

The World Today - Tuesday, 18 November , 2008 12:22:00

Reporter: Kim Landers

ELEANOR HALL: The proposed deal between Washington and Baghdad which would see US forces out of
Iraq by the end of 2011, is likely to be reviewed by President-elect Barack Obama once he takes
over from George W Bush in January.

Barack Obama wants a shorter timetable for withdrawal and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, says he'd prefer the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq to be
"conditions-based."

In Washington, correspondent Kim Landers reports.

(Sound of applause)

KIM LANDERS: With the stroke of a pen and a smattering of applause, the US Ambassador in Baghdad
and Iraq's Foreign Minister have signed a security pact which requires all American forces to be
out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

The deal has been approved by the Iraqi Cabinet but still needs parliamentary approval.

While calling for American troops to withdraw within three years, the pact also prohibits the US
from using Iraqi territory to attack Iran and Syria.

It also gives Iraq the right to try US soldiers and defence contractors who commit serious crimes
while off duty and off base.

But most importantly, in effect, it's a three-year withdrawal timetable for US forces.

Nevertheless, America's military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, is insisting he still wants any
removal of US troops to be "conditions based".

MIKE MULLEN: But I do think it's important that it be conditions-based. I certainly understand that
there are other options and it's something that we look at all the time, but at the same time, I
mean, from the military's perspective, I think it's best to be conditions-based.

KIM LANDERS: But when pressed by reporters, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has conceded
that's not what the agreement says.

REPORTER: Does the agreement as passed by the Iraqi Cabinet require all US troops to leave Iraq by
the end of 2011, regardless of conditions on the ground?

MIKE MULLEN: Yes.

KIM LANDERS: And the White House spokeswoman Dana Perino has admitted the whole pact could be
reviewed once Barack Obama takes over from George W. Bush in January.

President-elect Barack Obama wants to pull major combat forces out of Iraq within 16 months.

So will Admiral Mullen try to convince the new Commander in Chief to stay with a conditions based
approach rather than a fixed timetable for withdrawal?

MIKE MULLEN: I would not pre-state what my discussion with the new president would be or what I
would tell him. I think that is, that will be determined based on the engagement and the counsel
that he seeks and he has said publically that he will that seek that counsel.

KIM LANDERS: Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Admiral Mullen says holding negotiations with elements of
the Taliban should be part of a long term strategy.

But he says conditions are not yet right for talks with Taliban insurgents.

MIKE MULLEN: At least from my perspective we're not there yet.

KIM LANDERS: The President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai says he'll go to quote "any length" to
protect the fugitive leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, if he enters peace talks.

But the US doesn't seem to be on board with that idea.

A State Department spokesman says it's hard to imagine any circumstances in which US forces would
allow safe passage for the senior leadership of the Taliban.

Meanwhile the President-elect's soon to be chief military adviser has also weighed in on the future
of Guantanamo Bay.

Admiral Mullen says it should be closed, but he also warns there'll be challenges in doing that,
although he won't elaborate on them.

An official with Barack Obama's transition team says Guantanamo Bay was just one topic discussed at
today's meeting between the President-elect and his former Republican rival John McCain.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.