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Kohl Presses Rice, Gates to Seek End to U. S. Military Commitment in Iraq

Location: Washington, DC


Senator Urges Administration to Put Greater Emphasis on Regional Diplomacy to Achieve Stability in Iraq

Saying that the "answer to our problems in Iraq cannot be found down the barrel of a gun," U.S. Senator Herb Kohl today urged the Administration to pursue more aggressive diplomatic efforts with Iraq's neighbors to help bring stability to the country and end the U.S. military commitment there. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee today regarding supplemental funding for the war in Iraq. Kohl serves on the Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Defense, which has oversight over the Pentagon=s annual budget.

"Everyone agrees that Iraq is an enormous problem for us and that by anyone's reckoning it has been badly mismanaged. Republicans and Democrats alike are desperately searching for a way out that leaves behind a stable Iraq and allows the men and women in our military -- who have done a magnificent job and been stretched to the breaking point -- to come home. And I also think we agree that the answer to our problems in Iraq cannot be found down the barrel of a gun. The changes that need to be made are more political than military. Our hopes increasingly focus on our diplomatic efforts: Iraq's neighbors must be more invested in quelling the country's escalating violence, and Iraqis themselves need to believe in their government and take charge of their own security," Kohl said at the hearing.

Kohl also expressed concern about a statement Secretary Gates made several weeks ago mentioning that if the troop surge backed by the President was not successful, the Secretary is considering "alternatives."

"What concerns me about that statement is that it implies there will be no end to our commitment. I am worried that there is no point at which this Administration would look at the situation in Iraq and say that this cannot continue. Who knows, the Administration could change strategies several more times. Are you proposing an open-ended commitment with constantly changing strategies -- and if not -- when do we run out of 'alternatives?'" Kohl asked Secretary Gates.

Secretary Gates indicated that if Iraq is left in chaos, more problems for the United States would store up in the region and beyond. He reminded the panel that the President has said the patience of the American people is limited with regard to the war in Iraq, and the Administration wants to balance that with the imperative needs of the security of the U.S. by not leaving Iraq in chaos.

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