New GOP bill challenges Bush Iraq policy
New GOP bill challenges Bush Iraq policy
By ANNE FLAHERTY and PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press
Writers 4 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Two prominent Senate Republicans have
drafted legislation that would require President Bush
by mid-October to come up with a plan to dramatically
narrow the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq.
The legislation, which represents a sharp challenge to
Bush, was put forward Friday by Sens. John Warner and
Richard Lugar and it came as the Pentagon acknowledged
that a decreasing number of Iraqi army battalions are
able to operate independently of U.S. troops.
"Given continuing high levels of violence in Iraq and
few manifestations of political compromise among
Iraq's factions, the optimal outcome in Iraq of a
unified, pluralist, democratic government that is able
to police itself, protect its borders, and achieve
economic development is not likely to be achieved in
the near future," the Warner-Lugar proposal said.
Bush has asked Congress to hold off on demanding a
change in the course of the war until September, when
the top U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S.
Ambassador Ryan Crocker, delivers a fresh assessment
of its progress.
Warner, R-Va., and Lugar, R-Ind., are well regarded
within Congress on defense issues. Warner was the
longtime chairman of the Armed Services Committee
before stepping down last year, while Lugar is the top
Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.
The Warner-Lugar proposal states that "American
military and diplomatic strategy in Iraq must adjust
to the reality that sectarian factionalism is not
likely to abate anytime soon and probably cannot be
controlled from the top."
Accordingly, Warner and Lugar say Bush must draft a
plan for U.S. troops that would keep them from
"policing the civil strife or sectarian violence in
Iraq" and focus them instead on protecting Iraq's
borders, targeting terrorists and defending U.S.
At the Pentagon, meanwhile, Marine Gen. Peter Pace,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters
that the number of battle-ready Iraqi battalions able
to fight on their own has dropped to a half-dozen from
10 in recent months despite heightened American
Without providing numbers, the White House had
acknowledged in its report to Congress Thursday that
not enough progress was being made in training Iraqi
security forces an issue that determines to a large
extent when the United States may be able to reduce
its forces there.
Pace, however, also said the readiness of the Iraqi
fighting units was not an issue to be "overly
concerned" about because the problem is partly
attributable to the fact that the Iraq units are out
operating in the field.
Appearing at a news conference with Defense Secretary
Robert Gates, Pace said that "as units operate in the
field, they have casualties, they consume vehicles and
The Warner-Lugar proposal is the first major
legislative challenge to Bush's Iraq policy endorsed
by the two senators and lent a more bipartisan
imprint to congressional dissatisfaction with the war
now in its fifth year.
Earlier this year, both Lugar and Warner expressed
grave doubts about Bush's decision to send 30,000
extra troops to Iraq. But both have been reluctant to
back binding legislation that would force the
The legislation the pair is working on would direct
Bush to present the new strategy to Congress by Oct.
16 and begin implementing it by Dec. 31.
The proposal also would seek to make Bush renew the
authorization for war that Congress gave him in 2002.
Many members contend that authorization which led to
the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was limited to
approval of deposing dictator Saddam Hussein and
searching for weapons of mass destruction.
In still another development, Bush's top spokesman
publicly expressed concern Friday about the pace at
which the Iraqi parliament is finishing work on
legislation aimed at bringing about changes considered
indispensable to its transition from the Saddam era.
"My understanding is at this juncture they're going to
take August off, but, you know, they may change their
minds," press secretary Tony Snow said.
The fast-moving developments capped another stressful
week for Bush and administration figures who have been
resisting attempts by majority Democrats in Congress
to force a U.S. troop withdrawal. The administration
sent to the Hill an interim progress report Thursday
which said that only about half of some 18
congressionally-mandated benchmarks for improvements
in the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
have been accomplished.
Earlier Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
exhorted congressional critics to give the
administration and the fledgling government until
September to "make a coherent judgment of where we
On the morning after the House voted 223-201 for a
Democratic proposal to force a U.S. troop withdrawal
by next spring, she acknowledged that al-Maliki's
government hasn't achieved "as much progress as we
would like. But we shouldn't just dismiss as
inconsequential the progress that they have made."
And Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, a top U.S. commander
in Iraq, told Pentagon reporters in a separate news
conference via video linkup from Iraq that "there will
be consequences" if U.S. troops withdraw too soon.
Mixon spoke of a troop drawdown that would be smaller
and slower than Democrats envision.
"It needs to be well thought out," he said of any
plans to drawn down forces. "It cannot be a strategy
that is based on 'Well, we need to leave.' That's not
a strategy, that's a withdrawal."
Congressional Democrats, who have said the war was
draining U.S. assets from the fight against al-Qaida,
moved earlier Friday to highlight what they see as a
major failure in Bush's war on terror: the inability
to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.
The Senate voted 87-1 in favor of doubling the reward
to $50 million for information leading to his capture.
The bill also would require regular classified reports
from the administration explaining what steps it's
taking to find bin Laden.