TOKYO, (AP) – A quick withdrawal of American troops would not benefit Iraq or Western interests, Iraq’s vice president said Saturday, after the House voted narrowly approved a cutoff deadline for the Iraq war.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi said the U.S.-led coalition troops operating in Iraq should not be withdrawn before the country’s own armed forces are functioning autonomously and professionally.
“Many of the Democrats are now pushing the White House for a quick withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This is not going to benefit either Iraqi or Western interests,” al-Hashimi said.
“If troops are pulled out on short notice, it will create a security vacuum in Iraq that cannot be filled by troops that have not been trained well enough and are not available in sufficient numbers,” he said.
The comments from al-Hashimi, who was wrapping up a four-day visit to Japan, came after the House voted 218-212 to pull combat troops out before September 2008. Democrats said it was time to heed the mandate of their election sweep last November, which gave them control of Congress.
However the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate and is unlikely to be signed by President Bush.
Al-Hashimi said a timetable for the withdrawal of coalition forces does have to be set if “forces of resistance” are to be drawn into dialogue aimed at achieving reconciliation and national unity.
But he rejected any calls for an immediate pullout.
“That could lead to chaos, and chaos to civil war,” al-Hashimi said. “Any withdrawal should be conditioned … tailor-made to the reform of our armed forces.”
Al-Hashimi also expressed his government’s resolve to stay the course in the wake of a suicide bombing Friday that seriously wounded Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie — the Iraqi government’s highest-ranking Sunni Arab — and killed at least nine people.
“Regardless of what happened, we will continue our struggle for stability,” said al-Hashimi, himself a Sunni Arab.