American President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki have discussed a time-frame to transfer security from US forces to Iraqi troops and so be able to cut the number of American forces, the government spokesman said on Friday. According to AFP, the two leaders talked on Thursday evening via secured video link and discussed the growing abilities of Iraqi troops in managing security in the country, Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.
"They focused on having a time-frame for the complete transfer of security responsibility into the hands of the Iraqi forces in order to decrease the number of American forces in Iraq and later withdraw them," Dabbagh said. According to him, the two leaders vowed to work on "increasing the ability of Iraqi forces to improve the security situation on the ground so as to achieve this goal (US withdrawal from Iraq)."
US-led forces have transferred security in 10 of the country's 18 provinces to Iraqi forces, the most recent being in Diwaniyah on Wednesday.
Dabbagh said the two leaders discussed the future of relations between Baghdad and Washington. "They talked about establishing new relations between Iraq and the US which respect the sovereignty of Iraq, and dicussed the joint interests of the two peoples in areas such as health, science, culture and security fields," Dabbagh said.
Bush and Maliki, meanwhile, welcomed the withdrawal this month of the last of the "surge" brigade, Dabbagh said. In February 2007, Bush had sent five extra combat brigades to Iraq to help quell the daily bloodshed. The five surge brigades have now been withdrawan following an overall drop in violence across the country.