The White House made public its strategy for securing victory in Iraq ahead of a keynote speech by President George W Bush on Wednesday, pointing towards a phased retrenchment of US troops.

The Bush administration took the unusual step of publishing a “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” drawn up by the National Security Council, which details the White House view of how progress should be assessed.

The document lists Iraq’s national elections, its constitution and ongoing training of security forces as evidence of US success in Iraq, amid increased calls for withdrawal of US troops from the country.

The NSC says the adminisatration “expects, but cannot guarantee” that US troops would be gradually withdrawn from Iraq.

“While our military presence may become less visible, it will remain lethal and decisive,“ the strategy states.

In an apparent riposte to Democrat critics of the war effort who hace called for a timetable for withdrawal, the NSC says: “No war has ever been won on a timetable and neither will this one.”

Senior officials continue to hint that the Pentagon could start withdrawing troops next year, while Mr Bush insists the US will not “cut and run” from Iraq.

The long-term goal of the strategy is for Iraq to emerge as “peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism”.

The NSC warns that failure “is not an option” because it would transform Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorists, damage US credibility as a supporter of reforms in the Middle East and lead to “tribal and sectarian chaos” in the region.

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