Bush Preps for Summit on Iraq Strategy
Saturday, June 10, 2006; 7:54 PM
WASHINGTON -- President Bush is walking a fine line with a high-profile, two-day Camp David summit on Iraq.
The sessions Monday and Tuesday are meant to show Americans anxious about the open-ended U.S. military presence in Iraq that progress is being made. The decision to hold meetings at the compound in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains is certain to give them a stature and exposure they might not have if set at the White House.
Yet the president is laboring to avoid the jubilant predictions made after previous milestones that were overtaken by continued violence and halting reconstruction.
White House officials played down expectations of troop-cutback formulas or other dramatic announcements from the meetings. Even Bush said Camp Davis was picked more for its spotty cell-phone service and the lack of other usual West Wing distractions.
The re-evaluation of the administration's Iraq policy starts with a long day of meetings between Bush and his national security team and the military commanders in the field in Iraq, continues with a luncheon attended by outside experts and ends with dinner Monday night.
On Tuesday, the sessions conclude with a joint meeting via videoconference between Bush's Cabinet and top ministers in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new government.
"Together we will determine how to best deploy America's resources in Iraq and achieve our shared goal of an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself," the president said Saturday in his weekly radio address.
Among the most immediate concerns is how to buttress security operations in and around Baghdad. That could involve short-term troop increases.
Bush asked his Cabinet to move quickly once al-Maliki's government was completed _ he filled the final three posts last week _ to establish relationships with Iraq's ministers.
The idea is to offer detailed assistance with everything from securing oil fields and pipelines, turning the lights on more reliably in Baghdad and ridding Iraqi security forces of militias that are fueling sectarian tensions.
Those are among the priorities al-Maliki has named for his administration. They have proved difficult achievements even more than three years after U.S.-led forces ousted the former government of Saddam Hussein.
Al-Maliki also has said that Iraqi forces will be capable of controlling security in all of Iraq within 18 months. Bush said last week that the Camp David meetings will seek to assess whether that claim is realistic.