Mikulski, Democratic Colleagues Call on Bush to Clarify Administration's Position on Troop Withdrawl - Southern Maryland Headline News

Mikulski, Democratic Colleagues Call on Bush to Clarify Administration's Position on Troop Withdrawl


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

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today joined 34 of her Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to President George W. Bush, urging him to clarify his administration's position on withdrawing troops from Iraq. The letter also calls on President Bush to explain his plan to proceed in Iraq and the role the international community will play in Iraq's future.

"I want to hear the President give us real answers on Iraq""I want to hear the President give us real answers on Iraq," said Senator Mikulski. "Our troops and their families need to know - what is our exit strategy?"

The text of the letter is published below in it's entirety:

Dear Mr. President:

Like all Americans, we want to see progress and success in Iraq. We believe this goal can best be accomplished by having Iraqis take responsibility for their own security and governance so we can transform the U.S. mission and begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces this year. But we also recognize that troop redeployments must be part of a larger political, regional and international strategy designed to stabilize Iraq and give the Iraqi people the best chance to achieve a peaceful and democratic future.

The Iraq plan we recently placed before the U.S. Senate reflected these beliefs. And we were pleased to note that shortly after the Senate acted on our plan, General Casey told a press conference at the Pentagon that he thought he could make substantial reductions in U.S. troops this year, as he had stated last year, with further troop reductions in 2007. Last week, we also learned from Iraq's national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie that there was an unofficial "road map" to foreign troop reductions; that the removal of foreign troops will help the Iraqis, who see foreign troops as occupiers rather than the liberators they were meant to be; that the removal of foreign troops will legitimize the Iraqi government in the eyes of its people; and that open-ended commitments by foreign governments will only serve to make the Iraqi government a weaker one and eventually lead to a culture of dependency.

Regrettably, neither your Administration nor congressional Republicans chose to put forward an alternative to the Democratic plan. After three and one half years of combat, our troops - and the Iraqi people - are entitled to a real debate and a real strategy for success. Staying the course and maintaining an open-ended commitment in Iraq is not in the U.S. national security interest, nor is it the best way to maximize Iraq's chances for success.

Therefore we believe it is important for you at this critical time to clarify your views on the best way forward in Iraq. For example, do you agree with General Casey that substantial reductions can be achieved this year, given the current conditions in Iraq? Do you agree with Senate Democrats and our military commanders who have stated that in order to defeat the insurgency and prevent sectarian violence, our military strategy must be coupled with a comprehensive political and diplomatic strategy that gives Iraq's major groups the confidence to pursue their interests peacefully and Iraq's neighbors and the international community a greater role in stabilizing Iraq?

We hope you will join with us, Mr. President, in answering these important questions and providing the direction that the American public seeks and that our troops deserve.

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