The half-century US military presence in South Korea may be a model for a future in which US forces play a support role in Iraq rather than a frontline combat role, the White House said.

“The Korean model is one in which the United States provides a security presence, but you’ve had the development of a successful democracy in South Korea over a period of years, and therefore, the United States is there as a force of stability,” said spokesman Tony Snow today.

“You get to a point in the future where you want it to be a purely support model,” said Mr Snow, who sought to ease concerns among US allies, war critics in the United States, and Iraqis over prospects of permanent US bases in Iraq.

Asked whether US troops would be there forever, the spokesman said that was “not necessarily” the case because a sovereign government in South Korea or Iraq could ask US forces to leave.

“They’re the ones who have the decisions about how long we stay,” he said, as the White House’s Democratic foes pushed US President George W. Bush to lay out a timetable for a US withdrawal from the war-wracked country.

“The situation in Iraq, and indeed, the larger war on terror, are things that are going to take a long time. But it is not always going to require an up-front combat presence,” he said.


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