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New GOP bill challenges Bush Iraq policy

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070713/ap_on_go_co/us_iraq New GOP bill challenges Bush Iraq policy By ANNE FLAHERTY and PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writers
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 13, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070713/ap_on_go_co/us_iraq

      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.
      assets.

      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
      training efforts.

      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
      equipment."

      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
      president's hand.

      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
      are."

      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.
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