This is fascinating. Let me deconstruct it:
1. The split in the Bush Administration on middle east policy is going public. First we had Steve Clemons’ report yesterday about the Cheney v. The World split on Iran. Now we have a split between the Secs. Def and State, the Pentagon brass, the intelligence community, and possibly the President on one side and the Generals in the field–Petraeus and Odierno–and the GOP hawks (Cheney, McCain etc) on the other.
2. This plan is very similar to the withdrawal strategy proposed by the Senate Democrats–Carl Levin and Jack Reed. (And which I favor.)
3. The notion that we would continue to train Iraqis may be very significant. It may mean that we’ve decided to side with the Shi’ites in the civil war since they’re the majority and–I don’t agree with this, by the way–the best hope for stability. (I disagree because you’re likely to get even more instability, with the various Shi’ite factions fighting each other for control).
4. If that’s the thinking, it’s incoherent. It directly contradicts one of the few recent successes we’ve had in Iraq: backing the Sunni tribes in Anbar against Al Qaeda.
5. What to watch for: Bush’s reaction to all this. My guess is he makes it plain that he’s opposed to this plan very quickly.