The President, as predicted, has announced that due to the progress we've seen under the Surge, he has chosen to listened to General Petraeus's advice and will start to draw down troops. He hopes to bring home some 7000 by the end of the year and reduce strength by about 30,000 by next summer. What he didn't say, though, was that the troop reduction he approved is the same amount of troops that were involved in the Surge originally. He also didn't mention that this reduction was part of the Surge strategy (indeed, by definition, a surge is a short-term concept). Another thing he didn't mention was how the Iraqi army led the surge, as was sold to us in January, though he did note that the Iraqi army training was going well, and noted some difficulty with the Iraqi police force.
As for progress, he failed to mention his own definition of the Surge's goal from January - the Iraqi government working together - as one of the signs of progress. This, of course, is because the Iraqi government hasn't progressed. He also mentioned the number of troops that will be allowed to re-enter the military, without mentioning that it was under his permission that they were disbanded originally (though he did try to discredit Bremer for that, who, learning from the mistakes of others, kept a paper trail) - though that might have been because he "can't remember."
In other news, the President apparently used this speech to try to tie in as many references to past and potential future events as possible. Of course he invoked 9-11, despite the fact that the war in Iraq has NOTHING TO DO WITH 9-11!!!!!!! He also mentioned Iran. He repeatedly referred to "terrorists and insurgents" as though they are one and the same - again failing to note that the terrorist presence in Iraq is the direct result of our meddling (as is the current threat to our security from any Iraqi instability). He also made a fleeting comment to the "Taliban-like control of al-Qaeda in Anbar Province." Again, the goal was to try to subtly connect the war in Iraq with the war on Terror. And of course, some people will buy it, because some people are stupid.
But one thing I noticed was how well his speech echoed the same progress report given by General Westmoreland that I commented on just yesterday, and which Just Wondering so kindly cross-posted on her blog today.
All in all, I was not impressed with the speech. I'm sure that it will keep his base happy ("But there's progress!") and probably keep a couple Republicans in check, but he didn't really say anything other than "I'm bringing home the troops that I said would only be there a limited time after a limited time because I've decided that the parameters we set for success in January were met close enough, so long as you ignore the overarching goal of the whole thing." And with the President's credibility, even that is suspect.
One thing I'd forgotten to mention was the President's tossing in of a new concept - a long term (open-ended) commitment or "security arrangement" that the Iraqis apparently want. I don't know where the government found the time to ask us to provide them with a security arrangement, but I guess when you're busy not meeting benchmarks or passing laws, you are able to squeeze that in... The problem, as someone else (I've been to many sites tonight and can't remember where I first read this, though I'm willing to bet it was from a link on the Moderate Voice) pointed out, in the other nations where we've kept forces under a security arrangement (the "tripwire troops" such as the famous "Berlin Brigade" necessary to invoke the presidents inherent rescue powers under the Constitution), in Iraq, our forces would be there to protect Iraqis from Iraqis, instead of some outside threat (such as communism). This seems to run contrary to the concept of a security arrangement, but I'm sure we're supposed to ignore that and listen to what the President wants us to hear.