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THE WORLD

Democrats Press Bush on an Iraq Troop Exit

August 01, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Key Democratic leaders in the House and Senate released a letter Monday calling on President Bush to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, citing an overtaxed military, billions of dollars spent and continuing sectarian violence.

Bush has consistently said there would be no such pullout until the fledgling Iraqi government could secure its position and Iraq's security forces were able to defend the country.

"U.S. forces in Iraq should transition to a more limited mission focused on counterterrorism, training and logistical support of Iraqi security forces and force protection of U.S. personnel," the Democrats wrote.

Republicans said the letter amounted to the Democratic leadership surrendering to terrorists.

"The Democratic leadership continues to demand that American soldiers end their mission and wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists that we are fighting in Iraq," Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said in a statement.

Democrats have been split on the approach to troop reduction. Some have called for legislation requiring troops to be out of Iraq by July 2007.

Others, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, have called for a phased redeployment to begin by Dec. 31 with no deadline for a full withdrawal.

The new letter, dated Sunday, is significant because -- signed by every top Democrat on committees with oversight of the military, intelligence and international affairs -- it solidifies the Democrats' position and presents a unified front as members head into election season.

The letter also was signed by Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, his House counterpart.

An uptick in sectarian violence in Baghdad has compromised Pentagon plans to begin withdrawing the 130,000 troops in Iraq by the end of the year.

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