Washington, DC - With a speech scheduled for tomorrow from the President, Senate Democratic Leaders wrote to President Bush to urge him to lay out a strategy for success in Iraq – a strategy that permits us to advance our national security interests and begin bringing our troops home.
The text of the letter follows below:
November 29, 2005
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
On November 15th, 79 members of the Senate, including 41 Republicans, voted to require changes to your Iraq policy and stressed the need for your Administration “to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq.”
Like a growing number of Americans, a strong bipartisan majority of Senators has serious questions about the strategy, the remaining objectives, and under what circumstances and when we can conduct a phased redeployment from Iraq. Your speech tomorrow at the U.S. Naval Academy presents an important opportunity to level with the American people and address these critical questions.
We hope that you will start by clearing up the confusion about your Administration’s position on U.S. troop levels in Iraq. For months your Administration has denied that it had developed a timetable for redeploying our troops and has vigorously criticized those who called upon your Administration to develop such plans. Now, however, recent press reports indicate that your Administration has in fact established a timetable to withdraw up to sixty thousand U.S. troops from Iraq in 2006.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that you and numerous Administration officials have repeatedly indicated any such plans for redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq would be “conditions based,” yet you have never publicly specified the conditions or a timeline for achieving them. For example, when Secretary Rumsfeld was asked on November 20th to identify some of the conditions that could lead to a redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq, he would not do so, saying only “they’ve put together teams of people between the Embassy in Iraq, the military in Iraq and the Iraqi government. And they are working out what those conditions are.”
The only significant condition you have publicly put forward is that U.S. troops will stand down as Iraqi forces stand up. Yet, as our senior military leaders have recently informed us, only one Iraqi battalion is capable of operating independently and all remaining Iraqi security forces require some level of U.S. support to carry out their missions. At the same time, October was the fourth deadliest month for U.S. forces; there has been a four-fold increase in weekly insurgent attacks since early 2004; and, based upon the recent bombings in Jordan, Iraq appears on the verge of becoming what it was not before the start of this conflict, namely a haven and launching pad for international terrorism.
Given this state of affairs, we urge you to use your address at the U.S. Naval Academy to level with the American people and our troops by explaining your strategy for success in Iraq – a strategy that permits us to advance our national security interests and begin bringing our troops home. As demanded by the strong bipartisan majority of the Senate in its vote to change course in Iraq, the American people need to hear what are the political, economic, diplomatic, and security objectives we are trying to achieve and what is a reasonable time line for achieving them.
We also call upon you to use your address to tell Iraqi leaders of all groups and political parties that they need to make political compromises to achieve the broad-based and sustainable political settlement that is essential for defeating the insurgency and that they need to ensure that Iraqi security forces are not only capable, but also loyal to the government rather than any single party, religion or ethnic group.
Rather than attacking those who insist on a plan for success in Iraq and accountability for your Administration’s actions as you and other senior Administration officials have done in your most recent statements, we hope you will rise above these partisan attacks and speak in clear and precise terms about the way forward in Iraq.
The fine men and women of the U.S. Naval Academy, our brave troops serving overseas, and the American people will be grateful for your candor and clarity.
Senator Harry Reid
Senator Dick Durbin
Senator Carl Levin
Senator Joe Biden
Senator John Rockefeller
Senator Jack Reed