US, Iraq Agree to Set 'Time Horizon' for Troop Cuts

Security deal may include 'aspirational goals' for withdrawal
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2008 1:55 PM CDT
President Bush, right, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki finish their meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007.    (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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(Newser) – George Bush and Nouri al-Maliki have agreed that a security pact should include a general, non-binding “time horizon” for troop withdrawals from Iraq, the White House said today. The leaders agreed to lay down “aspirational goals” based on improving ground conditions, Reuters reports, striking a compromise between the prime minister’s recent calls for a timetable and President Bush’s aversion to hard deadlines.

The two spoke yesterday in an effort to speed negotiations to keep American forces in Iraq after a UN mandate expires at year’s end. It was the closest the US has come to accepting anything like a timetable, though the spokesman said goals would be based on “continued improving conditions on the ground and not an arbitrary date.”