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April 7, 2008
Kerry, Reed: Iraq war weakening other anti-terror efforts
WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., said today that the Bush administration's focus on Iraq was preventing American forces from putting up a stronger fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"This is making us weaker and less effective in the real war on terror," said Kerry, who made a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan in February. "It is creating a security gap, an enormous security gap that threatens the ability of the United States to carry out its larger security objectives."
Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, said the Taliban is making a resurgence in Afghanistan. Reed said the recent elections in Pakistan could pose dangerous new challenges in the region for America.
"Progress there is slipping away," said Reed, a former Army Ranger who has made several trips to Iraq. "You have a new political dynamic in Pakistan that may result in Al Qaeda leadership digging deeper in and being less reachable by our forces."
Debate over Bush's Iraq strategy is expected to intensify this week as Congress hears from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker. The American death toll in the unpopular, 5-year-old war has passed 4,000 lives while the price tag is nearly $500 billion.
Petraeus is expected to offer his proposal for a pause in troop cuts after July when the last of the five additional brigades ordered to Iraq last year as part of a buildup of U.S. forces have come home. He also could say how many more troops could be withdrawn this year, as long as conditions in Iraq remain stable.
Petraeus and Crocker are expected to tout political advancements by the Iraqis, although they will note that much more needs to be done.
The comments by Kerry, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Reed, an Armed Services panel member, came in a telephone conference call with reporters. Crocker and Petraeus will appear tomorrow before the two panels.
-- The Associated Press
The hearings on Capitol Hill come in the wake of violence that erupted late last month as U.S.-trained Iraqi forces attempted to oust Shiite militias from Basra in southern Iraq.
"The last days have brought home a bitter reminder of the limits of the surge and the military components of this to deal with the realities of what's happening in Iraq," Kerry said.
Reed said Iraqis must play a greater role to insure political stability and security in their country. He opposed Bush's troop buildup, which began last year.
"It comes down to the bottom line of we need a strategy that will clearly shift the burden to the Iraqis," Reed said.
Posted by Mike McKinney at 3:57 PM | Permalink
Russ Marchand | April 8, 2008 8:29 AM link
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