Security handover: Iraq, U.S. to speed the process

U.S. President George Bush has used talks in Jordan to praise Nuri al-Maliki as “the right guy” for Iraq and pledged to keep American troops in the country as long as al-Maliki's government wanted them there.

The comments come as the Iraq Study Group prepares to make recommendations to the U.S. President on ways to change course in what the American mass media now openly calls “civil war”.

The independent Iraq Study Group, charged with recommending new strategies for the war, has reached a consensus on a final report, which will be delivered to President Bush next week. Few details on the panel’s report have been released. But sources familiar with the group’s deliberations say it will call for a gradual pull back of U.S. troops from Iraq, and a transition in the military’s role from offensive to supportive. Sources say it avoids specifying a date for re-deployment, but that it stresses the U.S. should not stay in Iraq indefinitely.

President Bush is not required to adopt any recommendations from the panel. But after the Republican Party suffered losses in mid-term elections last month, the Study Group’s conclusions are sure to carry a lot of political weight.

The Jordan summit, billed originally as two days of talks aimed at strengthening the Iraqi leader as he wrestles with national security, comes as Bush faces pressure at home to construct a fresh approach to the war, as public confidence in the conflict continues to sink.