I mentioned yesterday that the Administration had to start getting their messaging straight when it comes to withdrawing troops. Because while the military is saying one thing, the White House is saying something different. Especially since we’re talking about pulling nearly 1/4th of our armed forces in Iraq (approx 30,000).

And from the looks of this Washington Post article, I’m not the only one who’s scratching my head.

The Bush administration has sent seemingly conflicting signals in recent days over the duration of the U.S. deployment to Iraq, openly discussing contingency plans to withdraw as many as 30,000 of 138,000 troops by spring, then cautioning against expectations of any early pullout. Finally yesterday, President Bush dismissed talk of a drawdown as just “speculation and rumors” and warned against “withdrawing before the mission is complete.”

If the public was left confused, it may be no more unsure than the administration itself, as some government officials involved in Iraq policy privately acknowledge.

And why are we beginning to pull out of Iraq?

Administration officials have all but given up any hope of militarily defeating the insurgents with U.S. forces, instead aiming only to train and equip enough Iraqi security forces to take over the fight themselves. At the same time, they believe that the mission depends on building a new political infrastructure, a project facing its most decisive test in the next three days as deeply divided Iraqis struggle to draft a constitution by a Monday deadline.

This definitely flies in the face of all the good news we’ve been hearing about the insurgency starting to fold. Is this simply journalistic bluster or the reality on the ground? Honestly, I fear it’s the latter, especially given reports that their bombs are becoming more sophisticated thanks to possible help from Iran.

In any event, let’s hope that the Iraqi forces and people really are ready to defend themselves when we finally do leave. We owe them that much. True, we did give them their freedom, but freedom without order has the potential to break out into civil war, and that would be a complete disaster. Of course, that’s the risk you run when you attempt to build nations in your own image.

Politics Mixed Messages About Troop Pullout