WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iraq would like to see U.S. forces withdraw as soon as feasible, but setting a date for their departure would be a mistake, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said in an interview published on Friday.
"We would like to see the withdrawal of American forces as quickly as possible, because the presence of any foreign troops on our land means there is a weakness that we cannot by ourselves control the security situation," Jaafari said in an interview with The Washington Post.
But a deadline would "play into the hands of the terrorists," Jaafari said on the eve of a meeting with President Bush at the White House on Friday.
Some U.S. lawmakers, including a few from Bush”s own Republican Party, have called for a deadline to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq.
But the White House and the Pentagon have rejected the idea, saying insurgents would simply wait for a withdrawal and then renew their fight.
In the interview, Jaafari called instead for accelerating the training of Iraqi troops, including a possible role for nations that are not a part of the U.S.-led military coalition.
"We strongly prefer an increase in quality of Iraqi forces, increase in number, increase in efficiency, increase in the effectiveness of tactics they use, as well as increase in equipment … anything that will raise efficiency of Iraqi forces is something that will be very welcomed because it will allow other forces, especially American forces, to withdraw," the prime minister said.
The newspaper said Jaafari insisted that recent U.S.-Iraqi offensives have improved security "dramatically." He also said growing support from Iraqis had generated new public cooperation and information that has been helpful in combating insurgents.
Jaafari also insisted that Iraq would meet an August deadline for a new constitution even though nothing has yet been written.
"We know there are challenges and we know there are difficulties, but certainly the difficulties in writing a constitution will be not as severe or as intense as they were during the elections," Jaafari said in the interview.