Q. Following that up, what is your schedule for withdrawing forces from Iraq? How fast would these withdrawals be carried out? What time frame?
A. [W]e believe that you can get one to two brigades out a month. At that pace, the forces would be out in approximately 16 months from the time that we began. That would be the time frame that I would be setting up. That also gives us time to make sure that we are strengthening the Iraqi forces. Obviously, I would prefer that we start this process now, but let’s assume that there are 100,000 troops when I get there, that means that we’re talking 14 to 15 months from now.
During that 16 months, I’m engaging in very systematic, tough diplomacy, not just with the various factions in the region, but also with Iran, with Syria, the Saudis, Jordan, with the United Nationals Security Council program members. Once it’s clear that we are not intending to stay there for 10 years or 20 years, all these parties have an interest in figuring out how do we adjust in a way that stabilizes the situation. They’re all going to have a series of complex differences and we’re going to, obviously, have to monitor it carefully about what those interests are to make sure our interests are protected. But what I don’t want to do is to make our withdrawal contingent on the Iraqi government doing the right thing because that empowers them to make strategic decisions that should be made by the president of the United States.”