Maliki's public utterances do not provide a reliable guide as to when it will be safe to pull out U.S. troops. Better to listen to the military professionals
Why? Well, Maliki hasn't been all that accurate on the ability of Iraqi forces to take care of the violence.
In May 2006, shortly after becoming prime minister, he claimed, "Our forces are capable of taking over the security in all Iraqi provinces within a year and a half." In October 2006, when violence was spinning out of control, Maliki declared that it would be "only a matter of months" before his security forces could "take over the security portfolio entirely and keep some multinational forces only in a supporting role." President Bush wisely ignored Maliki. Instead of withdrawing U.S. troops, he sent more. The prime minister wasn't happy. On Dec. 15, 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has flatly told Gen. George Casey, the top American military commander in Iraq, that he doesn't want more U.S. personnel deployed to the country, according to U.S. military officials." When the surge went ahead anyway, Maliki gave it an endorsement described in news accounts as "lukewarm." In January 2007, with the surge just starting, Maliki predicted "that within three to six months our need for the American troops will dramatically go down." In April 2007, when most of Baghdad was still out of control, the prime minister said that Iraqi forces would assume control of security in every province by the end of the year.
So, Maliki was just as wrong as Obama about the surge. He is also, just like Obama, unwilling to give any credit to the success of the surge to the American troops. When we eventually leave Iraq, it should be when the progress of the Iraqis are solid and shouldn't be sabotaged by an unwise, early departure of our troops. One thing McCain can say is that will we leave at a time when the Iraqis are ready and when they are stable enough that we don't have to come back after we leave.