The top U.S. military commander in Iraq isn't buying the increasingly popular idea of a publicly stated timetable for American troop withdrawal.
Gen. David Petraeus, the Iraq commander, said in an interview with McClatchy that the situation in Iraq is too volatile to "project out, and to then try to plant a flag on a particular date."
With violence at its lowest levels of the war, politicians in both the United States and Iraq are getting behind the idea of a departure timetable. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was first, suggesting he would have combat troops home within 16 months of Inauguration Day. The idea got a big boost during his overseas trip last week, when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki indicated support for that general timeline.
During a Friday interview on CNN's "The Situation Room," Republican candidate John McCain, who had opposed setting a timeline, appeared to shift ground. McCain said that 16 months "is a pretty good timetable" but must be based on conditions on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration has embraced "time horizons" as it negotiates with the Iraqi government a status of forces agreement over the future role of U.S. troops. Petraeus said any timetable must have "a heck of a lot more granularity than the kind of very short-hand statements that have been put out."