How do you know America is leaving Iraq?
Answer: Follow the money. From Tuesday's Washington Post:
Under the budget plan, the deficit would jump from $318 billion last year to $423 billion in 2006, then slide back down to $183 billion in 2010. In 2011, the last year of the White House's projection, the deficit would again begin to rise, to $205 billion, reflecting the cost of extending Bush's tax cuts beyond their 2010 expiration date and enacting a proposed Social Security restructuring that would cost $57 billion in that year alone.
Sounds good so far. But, "beyond 2007, the budget assumes no military expenditures in Iraq or Afghanistan." And to spell this out more clearly:
The administration, for the first time, has spelled out anticipated spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in a formal budget document. Previously, the administration submitted requests for supplemental or emergency spending to cover costs. But the $50 billion in war funding for next year falls well short of the $120 billion that was requested for 2006. And no further war spending is included in future deficit projections.
So Bush plans to spend $70 billion less next year and nothing after 2007. So how is he going to pull this off? The answer is to bring the Sunnis on board. Over the past few weeks I have been noticing a few odd items on the web. First Khalilzad, America's ambassador to Iraq told David Ignatius of the Washington Post:
"The security ministries have to be run by people who are not associated with militias and who are not regarded as sectarian," ... "We are saying, if you choose the wrong candidates, that will affect U.S. aid,"
Meaning the Shi'a parties get nothing significant. If they cannot run the army or the police they are not in power.
Then, Alaa of the blog Mesopotamian, a supporter of the Shi'a parties, said this:
The U.S. presence in Iraq is trying a very treacherous ropewalk at the moment. The situation is fraught with danger. The U.S. authorities are being too anxious to ingratiate themselves to the various Sunni groups in a way that I think is going too far.
America is playing a dengerous game - If it gives too much to the Sunni's, the Shi'a will rebel. But, the Sunni insurgency has built its own momentum and looks like it can continue for the forseeable future. Either way, Bush's budget shows that America cannot afford its occupation. The single worst thing that can happen to America is that it is forced into a humiliating forced withdrawal, yet that is the way events are pointing.