John Sarbanes calls for phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
On November 30, 2005, approximately two and a half years after declaring "mission accomplished" in Iraq, President Bush unveiled his written "Strategy for Victory in Iraq." In remarks to the United States Naval Academy, the President vowed that the United States will "stay as long as necessary to complete the mission."
I believe the President is out of step with a growing consensus of Americans. Liberated at last from the charge that criticism of the war is unpatriotic, many are expressing their view that it was a mistake to invade Iraq - a mistake that would only be compounded by following an open-ended, "stay the course" strategy.
While an immediate pullout of all United States troops from Iraq would be irresponsible, I believe a phased withdrawal of American troops should begin as soon as possible and be completed within the next twelve to eighteen months.
How can we make this happen?
From the President, we need a commitment to work closely with Congressional leaders in crafting a withdrawal plan that (1) places a premium on the training of Iraqi security forces, allowing the draw down of U.S. troops and their redeployment to containment positions outside of Iraq, (2) offers the international community a meaningful role in the reconstruction and stabilization of Iraq and (3) gives consideration to any and all political solutions that might avoid civil war.
From both parties in Congress, we need a commitment to put politics aside and devote all energy to a consensus plan for withdrawal. Republicans must call upon the President to consult not just with the Republican leaders in Congress, but with the Democrats as well. While Democrats can hardly be faulted for their anger at the President's obstinance, they must show themselves to be constructive partners in the effort to bring our troops home.
From the American people, we can count on continued steadfast support for our troops during the coming transition period. Once the soldiers have returned home, that support must continue - in the form of meaningful counseling, decent health care and job training and placement.
I am calling upon the President to take the initiative. That is the courageous and responsible thing for him to do. Furthermore, the President has unique access to critical intelligence information that must inform the exit strategy. However, if the President does not demonstrate this willingness very soon, Congress must take the lead - ideally, in a bipartisan way, but short of that, at the insistence of the Democratic leadership. There are many distinguished former members of the military and diplomatic establishment who stand ready to offer their expertise in devising a sound and responsible withdrawal plan.
I am convinced that, ultimately, the strategic redeployment of American troops from Iraq will enhance our efforts and the efforts of our allies to combat terrorism around the world. Most importantly, it will allow us to begin the process of healing the deep divisions that this war has created within our own country as well as the damage it has inflicted on our reputation around the world.