TOKYO – A quick withdrawal of American troops would not benefit Iraq or Western interests, Iraq's vice president said Saturday, hours after the Democratic Party-led U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed 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reporters in Tokyo, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi said the U.S.-led coalition troops operating in Iraq should not be withdrawn before the country's own armed forces are functioning autonomously and professionally.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 U.S. House agreed in a 218-212 vote — mostly along party lines — to pull combat troops out by next year.
The legislation, which faces an uphill battle in the Senate and is unlikely to be signed by President George W. Bush, would require that combat troops come home from Iraq before September 2008 — or earlier if the Iraqi government does not meet certain conditions.
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."