Mikulski: Start Withdrawing Troops by End of 2006 - Southern Maryland Headline News

Mikulski: Start Withdrawing Troops by End of 2006

"We want Iraqis to lead, so we can leave"

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today announced her support for the Senate Levin-Reed amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, which calls on President Bush to begin reducing U.S. troop levels in Iraq by the end of 2006. The amendment outlines a plan for a phased, structured withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq which supporters of the plan hope will allow Iraqi forces to take control of their country in an orderly way. However, no provisions are made which require a date for a final pullout. The amendment also calls for a "careful" assessment of how U.S. involvement in Iraq is impacting the fight against terrorism in other parts of the world.

“2006 must be a year of transition in Iraq. Iraq is beginning to move in the right direction, but our open-ended presence is keeping them from making faster progress,” said Senator Mikulski. “It is time for the Iraqi government to stand up, so our troops can begin to stand-down.”

“Our current open-ended policy is counterproductive and unsustainable,” Senator Levin said. “The Administration’s policy of ‘we’ll be there for as long as Iraq needs us’ will result in Iraqis depending on us longer. Three and a half years into the conflict, we should tell the Iraqis that the American security blanket is not permanent. Beginning a phased redeployment this year will add incentives for the Iraqis to make the hard compromises necessary to bring their country together and secure it. They need to do that job themselves and our amendment is one way to prod them to make that commitment and stick to it.” Senator Levin (D-Mi.) is the senior Democrat on the Senate's Armed Services Committee.

The amendment characterizes the current American occupation of Iraq as an "open-ended commitment" and seeks to change that course. The amendment calls for several actions to be performed by the President and the Iraq government. However, in many cases the amendment uses the verb "should" rather than "shall." In legal terms, "should" is often interpreted as something that can be performed as an option. "Shall" is the preferred verb when requiring that a prescribed action be imperative.

The amendment specifically calls for the following actions:

- Calls on the Iraq government to implement fair sharing of power and economic resources among all Iraqi groups either by constitutional measure or legislation;

- Calls on the President to more actively involve the international community to help resolve Iraq's outstanding political and economic issues;

- Calls on the Iraq government to disarm militias and clean house of disloyal members of the Iraqi security forces;

- Calls on the President to transition the mission and strength of US forces to only include training Iraq security forces, providing logistical support of said forces, protecting the US infrastructure and personnel, and to participate in targeted counterterrorism activities;

- Calls on the President to work with the Iraq government and coordinate the phased reduction of US forces;

- Calls on the President to submit a plan to Congress by the end of 2006 that defines the continued phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq;

- Calls on the US to sustain a non-military effort to support reconstruction, governance, and a "durable political solution" in Iraq;

- and calls on the President to "carefully assess" the impact that the burden imposed by US involvement in Iraq is having on the greater fight against terrorism elsewhere in the world.

In a statement released on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tn.) repeated the Republican mantra when he stated, "This amendment effectively calls on the United States to cut and run from Iraq."

According to CNN, "There have been 2,730 coalition deaths, 2,505 Americans, two Australians, 113 Britons, 13 Bulgarians, three Danes, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Fijian, one Hungarian, 31 Italians, one Kazakh, one Latvian, 17 Poles, two Romanians, two Salvadoran, three Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians in the war in Iraq as of June 21, 2006." GlobalSecurity.org estimates the number of US wounded at over 18,000.

The US Government does not officially keep track of the number of dead Iraqis. However, a recent study by researchers at the well-respected Johns Hopkins University estimates the number to be more than 100,000 since March 2003.

Current estimates place the total cost of the war and subsequent occupation of Iraq at more than $290B. Scholars have estimated that the total cost could ultimately reach $2 trillion dollars.

Senator Mikulski today released the following statement for the record in regards to her support of the Levin-Reed amendment:

"I rise in support of the Levin-Reed amendment on U.S. policy in Iraq. Before I continue, I would like to say a word about our troops and their families. We owe our brave service members and their families a debt of gratitude for their selfless service and great sacrifice in Iraq over the last three years. Members of our Armed Forces are at this moment deployed in harms way, many on their second or third deployment. They and their families should know they have our whole-hearted support and gratitude, with deeds, not just with words. Our troops need to know, what is our exit strategy?

"In October 2002, as the Senate debated giving the President authority to invade Iraq, I asked whether our troops would be greeted with land mines or parades. Three years later, we know the answer. Our forces have faced a violent insurgency and terrorist attacks that have claimed the lives of 2,500 brave American service members. We went to war with Iraq, but today we find ourselves at war in Iraq. After three years, it is time for a new approach.

"2006 must be a year of transition in Iraq. We want Iraqis to lead, so we can leave. It is important for Iraqis to take ownership of Iraq. They must provide for their own security, take charge of economic development and restore civic order. Iraq is beginning to move in the right direction, but our open-ended presence is keeping them from making faster progress.

"That is why I am proud to support this amendment, which calls on the President to begin reducing U.S. troop levels in Iraq by the end of 2006. This amendment gives us a plan for a phased, structured withdrawal of our troops so Iraqi forces can take control of their country in an orderly way.

"This is not about cut and run. This is about getting out of the way so Iraqis can run their own country. Iraqi security and police forces are getting stronger by the day, and the U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, thinks it will be possible to reduce the U.S. presence in Iraq by as many as 30,000 troops by the end of 2006.

"The Iraqi National Security Advisor, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, has said that the removal of foreign troops will legitimize Iraq's government in the eyes of its people. In an excellent article in Tuesday's Washington Post, he details the "road map" for restoring security in Iraq and reducing the presence of foreign troops. The road map's objectives are similar to the benchmarks for withdrawal of U.S. forces outlined last year in legislation offered by Senator Warner and Senator Levin, which I supported.

"Here's what Mr. Rubaie said can be done: 'With the governors of each province meeting these strict objectives, Iraq's ambition is to have full control of the country by the end of 2008. We envisage the U.S. troop presence by year's end to be under 100,000, with most of the remaining troops to return home by the end of 2007.' He went on to say that '...the removal of foreign troops will legitimize Iraq's government in the eyes of its people....[T]he draw-down of foreign troops will strengthen our fledgling government to last the full four years it is supposed to." Mr. Rubaie concluded, "Iraq has to grow out of the shadow of the United States and the coalition, take responsibility for its own decisions, learn from its own mistakes, and find Iraqi solutions to Iraqi problems, with the knowledge that our friends and allies are standing by with support and help should we need it.' We salute and support the position the Iraqis themselves are taking. This is what the Levin-Reed amendment does. Iraqis want full control of their country by the end of 2008, and we should help them toward that goal.

"We need to ensure that an adequate number of Iraqi Army battalions can operate independently to defeat the insurgency and protect Iraq's borders. And we must ensure an adequate number of Iraqi police and security units are trained and equipped to maintain law and order. The Iraqi government is committed to meeting these benchmarks as quickly as possible.

"Mr. President, our brave men and women are serving with great honor in Iraq. Their service has paved the way for democratic elections and for the formation of a new unity government. We are all tremendously proud of their accomplishments and grateful for their sacrifice. It is time for the Iraqi government to stand up, so our troops can begin to stand-down."

Senator Mikulski is one of two federal senators for the state of Maryland. She is classified as a Class III Senator. Senators are elected to six-year terms, and every two years the members of one class-approximately one-third of the Senators-face election or reelection. Terms for Senators in Class I expire in 2007, Class II in 2009, and Class III in 2011.

Ms. Mikulski's website is located at http://mikulski.senate.gov/. Her office can be reached at (202) 224-4654. More biographical info on Ms. Mikulski can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Mikulski.


US Senate Levin-Reed Amendment to the Defense Authorization bill

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