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General: Troop Withdrawal Hinges on Iraq Vote

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050929/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/rumsfeld Gen.: Troop Withdrawal Hinges on Iraq Vote By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 29, 2005
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      Gen.: Troop Withdrawal Hinges on Iraq Vote

      By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer 45 minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - U.S. troops could begin coming home from
      Iraq next year, but it depends on conditions during
      and after the upcoming elections there, the top U.S.
      commander in Iraq told Congress on Thursday.

      The remarks by Gen. George Casey, along with similar
      comments he made a day before, represented a softening
      of his earlier assessment that a "fairly substantial"
      pullout could begin next spring and summer.

      Casey said the result of the upcoming Iraqi referendum
      on a new constitution on Oct. 15 and December
      elections will affect whether conditions on the ground
      will be appropriate for withdrawing U.S. troops.

      "The next 75 days are going to be critical for what
      happens," Casey told the Senate Armed Services

      Casey, the most senior commander of coalition forces
      in Iraq, and Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S.
      Central Command, were testifying before the Senate and
      House Armed Services committees alongside Defense
      Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B.
      Myers, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of

      President Bush sent the group to Capitol Hill for
      back-to-back House and Senate hearings to try to
      convince lawmakers — and their skeptical constituents
      — that the United States is making progress in the war
      despite slipping support at home.

      Before the Senate panel, the generals warned that
      defeating the insurgency would take time. "Success in
      Iraq will require patience and will," Casey said. "To
      be sure the next couple of months are going to be

      Casey said the insurgents will try to affect the
      political process in the coming weeks but he said they
      would not win.

      By the December elections, he said, the number of
      Iraqi security forces available will rise to 100,000,
      allowing the United States to ask for only 2,000 more
      U.S. troops compared with the 12,000 extra needed
      during last January's elections.

      Abizaid warned lawmakers that Al-Qaida is the main
      enemy to peace and stability in the Middle East and
      the terrorist group is seeking to acquire — and use —
      weapons of mass destruction there. "The enemy that
      brought us 9/11 continues to represent one of the
      greatest dangers to this nation," Abizaid said.

      While the Bush administration has refused to set a
      timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Casey has
      repeatedly said a "fairly substantial" pullout could
      begin next spring and summer as long as the political
      process stayed on track, the insurgency did not expand
      and the training of Iraqi security forces continued as

      But when reporters asked Casey on Wednesday whether he
      still believed that to be the case, he said, "I think
      right now we're in a period of a little greater
      uncertainty than when I was asked that question back
      in July and March."

      "Until we're done with this political process here
      with the referendum and the elections in December, I
      think it's too soon to tell," Casey said.

      Rumsfeld's spokesman later played down Casey's

      "In July, he had one assessment. He has an assessment
      now that could still result in what he said earlier,
      it could result in no change, it could result in
      more," Lawrence Di Rita said.

      Congress has not held a hearing on Iraq with top
      officials since before its August break.

      Back home in their districts, lawmakers heard from
      constituents whose discomfort about Iraq was reflected
      in polls that showed sliding support for Bush as well
      as the war effort.

      Republicans have increasingly started expressing
      concern, although most continue to support the

      Democrats have begun to ramp up their criticism of
      Bush's Iraq policy as that country's Oct. 15 vote on a
      new constitution nears and the U.S. death toll
      approaches 2,000.

      Before the hearings, Senate Democrats implored
      Rumsfeld in a letter "to provide frank answers" to the
      public's questions about the war, including the status
      of the training of Iraqi security forces and expected
      U.S. troop levels over the next year.

      "Continued stonewalling, or simply saying these
      answers are 'unknowable' or are 'conditions based,'
      are no longer satisfactory. The Congress and the
      American people deserve better information," the
      letter said.

      But Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record),
      chairman of the Senate committee, told Rumsfeld: "I
      think you're setting forth with great clarity" on the
      U.S. strategy in Iraq.
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