Senators call for hearing on Iraq withdrawal plans.

Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Jim Webb (D-VA), Robert Byrd (D-WV), and Evan Bayh (D-IN) today wrote a letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) calling for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the status of the Bush administration’s withdrawal planning. See the full letter below:

July 23, 2007

The Honorable Carl Levin
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Levin:

We write to request that the Senate Committee on Armed Services hold a hearing on Department of Defense contingency planning for the redeployment of United States military forces from Iraq. Such a hearing could solicit the views of outside experts who have experience in the redeployment of large numbers of troops as well as administration witnesses. If necessary, portions of the hearing could be held in closed session.

The importance of holding this hearing was underscored this month when Senators Warner and Lugar introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act calling for the Administration to present its redeployment plan to Congress by October 16, 2007. As they noted, the safety and security of our military forces, as well as our nation’s credibility in the region, require that any military withdrawal or redeployment from Iraq be carefully planned and executed. A poorly planned withdrawal would compound the risks to our forces, coalition partners, and the government of Iraq.

The need for the Committee to know the status of Department of Defense redeployment planning is clear, yet past efforts by individual members to obtain this information were rebuffed. Following reports that the Pentagon was not engaging in detailed planning while the Iraqi Defense Ministry was preparing its own plans in the event that the United States and its forces departed Iraq quickly, the Secretary of Defense was requested in May to provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress with briefings on the current status of contingency planning for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman responded to this request on Secretary Gates’ behalf on July 16. A copy of his letter and other correspondence relating to this matter are enclosed for your reference. As you will see, Under Secretary Edelman raised spurious arguments to avoid discussing contingency planning and claimed that premature discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda. His assertion that necessary congressional oversight emboldens our enemies is outrageous.

As you are aware, the roots of the many problems facing our men and women serving in Iraq were planted by the failure of this Administration to develop sound, realistic plans. We cannot afford to repeat the same mistake when our forces redeploy. Congressional oversight will help to ensure that redeployment plans properly address the numerous challenges that our troops will face, including the resources and the diplomatic support required to ensure that any redeployment is safe and orderly.

Thank you for considering this request.

Sincerely yours,

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Robert C. Byrd
Evan Bayh
Jim Webb