Top Republican wants orderly US pullout from Iraq
Published: Sunday July 1, 2007
Senator Richard Lugar, the most prominent Republican yet to break ranks with the US administration over Iraq, called Sunday for an "orderly" withdrawal of US troops in the coming months.
President George W. Bush should embrace moderates from both sides in Congress to chart a new path forward, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on CBS News.
The group would examine forming "a diplomatic forum to bring together all the neighboring countries, and we meet continuously and we talk about our interests in Iraq but also our interests with each other," he said.
"Then withdrawal of a majority of American troops in a calm, orderly way over the next few months so that we refurbish our ability to meet problems elsewhere in the world," Lugar said.
"I think we are too much stretched and I would add to that our recruiting problems have become severe."
Lugar sent shock waves through political Washington last Monday by taking to the floor of the Senate to argue that Bush's "surge" of US troops had not translated into meaningful progress by Iraqi authorities.
One of the most respected voices in Congress, the 73-year-old senator said that he would not support any Democratic-sponsored cut in war funding as long as US troops are on the ground fighting insurgents in Iraq.
Bush has the authority to keep up troop deployments at current high levels, although the constraints of national election campaigning next year "are likely to bring pause even to the president if he were to have that idea."
"I just hope he doesn't have any such idea, that he is thinking along with the rest of us now about the diplomacy of the other nations, the reaching out to everybody else in the neighborhood," Lugar said.
As some Democrats prepare a new offensive over Iraq funding in Congress's latest authorization bill, Bush is pleading for patience ahead of a report by US commanders in September on the impact of his surge of thousands more troops.
Lugar, however, said Iraqi politicians had failed to use the breathing space provided by the surge to enact crucial legislative changes including to the constitution and on sharing oil revenues among warring factions.
The senator said that following talks with national security advisor Stephen Hadley, he hoped for a positive response from the White House to his proposal of troop withdrawals married to a shift in diplomacy.
"I hope something will come of this -- now, not punting the ball down to September," Lugar said.