Monday, August 08, 2005

Troop cuts in Iraq feasible - House Republican


Troop cuts in Iraq feasible - House Republican

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States might be able to remove up to 30,000 troops from Iraq by next spring as the Iraqi military gets stronger, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee said on Sunday.

Separately, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Time magazine that Iraqi insurgents were losing steam as a political force even though their ability to kill and maim appeared undiminished.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" it was feasible to begin planning for U.S. troop reductions of that size even though recent deadly attacks have again raised questions about whether Washington has underestimated the Iraqi insurgency.

Reports indicate "there is a growing strong core of strength in the Iraqi military, that it's standing and fighting, that it's doing its share of the load," Hunter said.

Rice said the Iraqi insurgency was losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

"I do think the insurgency has a problem, which is that as the political process matures and the Iraqis every day accept the political process as their future, (the insurgents) become more and more isolated from the population and they become nothing but a destructive force," Rice told Time.

More progress was being made in Iraq than the rising U.S. death toll suggests, Rice said.

"It's a lot easier to see the violence and suicide bombing than to see the rather quiet political progress that's going on in parallel," she said.

On Wednesday a roadside bomb just outside Haditha, 120 miles northwest of Baghdad, killed 14 Marines, the deadliest attack of its kind since the war began.

Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee, cautioned that success in Iraq depends on meaningful political and economic development.

"And that's going to take a long time," Reed told CBS.

Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. Middle East commander, has outlined a plan that would reduce American forces in Iraq by some 20,000 to 30,000 by next spring if the security and political situation allows it, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

There are currently some 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and Abizaid's plan calls for the number to rise temporarily to 160,000 in December to provide security for elections of a new Iraqi National Assembly, the paper said.

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, told the "Fox News Sunday" program that the United States should clarify its objectives rather than discuss a military drawdown.

"One is, we should state forthrightly, 'We have no desire to have a permanent base there.' Two, 'We have no desire to deal with their oil,"' Biden said.