So the UK is not going to throw in the towel in Iraq and we are not going to set a deadline for withdrawal so thats ok then. I am not sure what this piece in the Guardian is referring to then.
The piece certainly gives the impression that the UK is at least setting an unofficial deadline for withdrawal. Kim Howells said "I would have thought that certainly in a year or so there will be adequately trained Iraqi soldiers and security forces - policemen and women and so on - in order to do the job."
He may genuinely think that but I would suggest that three years down the road there is precious little evidence that the Iraqi security forces are efficient enough, effective enough, numerous enough and determined enough to bring order, stability and security to a country that is effectively in the middle of a civil war.
The Americans too seem to be singing from the same song sheet according to this piece in the Guardian The article says "the Bush administration, alarmed by the increasing violence and lawlessness gripping much of Iraq, has decided to force the hand of the embattled prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. It will push him to agree to a timetable of specific measures aimed at disarming the militias, halting sectarian violence, and shouldering more responsibility for the country's security." In other words sort things out and take responsibility for your own security so we can leave.
Whatever happens with British and American troops and their timetable (or not) for withdrawal I think it is inevitable that the final solution for Iraq will involve the Balkanisation of the country. Sooner or later Iraq will split into a number of smaller states most probably three. It seems probable that there is nothing now that the coalition forces or internal Iraqi security forces can do to prevent that. I hope I am wrong and that some miracle occurs and order is re-established as soon as possible. But it does not seem likely.