On May 23, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging him to “prepare plans for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces.” She requested that the Pentagon provide congressional oversight committees with “briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.”
Earlier this week, Clinton received a “biting reply” from Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman, who told Clinton, “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda.” In response, she today sent another letter to Gates renewing her request for a briefing “on current plans for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq or an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning.”
Today on a conference call with reporters, Clinton called Edelman’s response “offensive and totally inappropriate.” “I sent a serious request to the Secretary of Defense, and received a political response in return,” said Clinton.
Since the Pentagon is not willing to brief Congress, Clinton and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) plan to introduce legislation mandating such a briefing. Clinton told reporters:
[The legislation will] require a report and briefing from the Pentagon on contingency planning. This is in direct response to the unacceptable response I’ve received. … If we don’t get a response from the Pentagon, we have no choice but to require the legislation to get the response. … We need to make sure we are smarter getting out of Iraq than we were getting into Iraq.
Clinton said that she believes there is “bipartisan support” for this legislation, adding that at a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) expressed concern about the lack of planning.
Kerry added that he expects the Pentagon to have a contingency plan for all situations, including “if the escalation of troops turns out to work” or “if there is a continuation of what we see today.”