Sen. John Warner (R-VA), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently returned from a visit to Iraq. Today, he held a press conference to discuss his impressions from that trip.
Frustrated with the lack of political progress in Iraq, Warner said it is time to put some “meaningful teeth” into Bush’s claim that the U.S. commitment to Iraq “is not open-ended.” Warner said he is calling on President Bush to announce on Sept. 15 that he will “initiate the first step in a withdrawal”:
I say to the President, respectfully, pick whatever number you wish. You do not want to lose the momentum. But certainly, in the 160,000 plus — say 5,000 — could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year.
While Warner called for a timetable, he argued it was not the role of Congress to mandate it. “Let the President establish the timetable of withdrawal, not the Congress,” he said. Bush need not lay out the “totality of the timetable,” Warner argued. But he must announce at least “a single redeployment of some several thousand” soldiers.
After the first redeployment from Iraq, Warner said a second contingent should be withdrawn at a later date “at the President’s discretion.” Such a move, Warner argued, “would get everyone’s attention.”
“We simply cannot as a nation stand and continue to put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action,” he said.
UPDATE: CNN reports that Warner met with White House “war czar” Gen. Doug Lute today at the White House to convey his recommendations.
UPDATE II: Asked to respond to Warner earlier today, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, “I think it’s inappropriate for me to say from here right now what the president will or will not consider.” A reporter followed up:
QUESTION: The president has frequently said a timetable would be a disastrous course of action.
JOHNDROE: Yes, and I don’t think that the president feels any differently about setting a specific timetable for withdrawl.
UPDATE III: Brad Woodhouse, President of Americans United for Change: “His call for withdrawing a mere 5,000 troops by Christmas just to send a message to the Iraqi’s just doesn’t cut it — it doesn’t meet the standard of safely ending the war or responsibly redeploying our troops out of harm’s way. The time for ‘sending messages’ has passed. The time for folks like Senator Warner, who criticize the conduct of the war and the failure of the surge, to take a stand and vote to safely end the war has arrived.”
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