Stationed just outside the Tomb of Abraham at Camp Cedar, Iraq, Andrew Jones saw the effect of the Iraq war firsthand.
He's witnessed the gunfire and explosions. He's helped his fellow soldiers while serving as a field medic.
Now, the National Guard reservist and Iraq veteran from Lawrence said he agreed with the recommendations of a senior Iraq panel that soldiers should begin coming home.
"It sounds a little late," Jones said of the recommendations. "They should have started doing this about a year or two ago."
After a bipartisan commission, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker, disclosed their recommendations urging a change in course for the Iraq war, local lawmakers and experts spent Wednesday weighing the commission's advice.
Among the recommendations:
l Reduce the number of U.S. combat troops in the country by the first quarter of 2008, basically giving leaders 15 months to ratchet up the training of Iraqi soldiers and police.
l Increase diplomatic efforts in the region, including in Iran and Syria, both of which U.S. leadership has labeled as "rogue states."
l Ask for increased cooperation and action from the Iraqi government because a large-scale U.S. military presence can't go on forever.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., expressed hope that the commission's recommendations would, eventually, lead to stability in the region and for U.S. troops.
He hoped the plan would mark "the beginning of an honest and productive debate" within the U.S. government and abroad, Moore said.
The debate, he said, will hopefully lead to a scenario where the U.S. can "begin a responsible and realistic redeployment of our troops."
U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said also that the report was a "welcome contribution," but that any action the administration takes on the report's recommendations must ensure "the defeat of terrorists in Iraq and nurture democracy and stability."
Kansas Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Wednesday that although the bipartisan effort could be a catalyst for Congress to end the partisanship that resulted in Iraq, the study group's report would have to be tempered with realism.
"While the intent of these policy changes is positive," Roberts said in a statement, "there should be no illusion that conditions in Iraq could very well threaten their feasibility."
The goals, Roberts said, are based on conditions in the country and inside the Iraq government. Although the study group recommended no specific timetable for withdrawal without commander's approval, Roberts said the prescribed changes could result in withdrawal by the 2008 time frame.
But all of that hinges on whether the Bush administration adopts the policy recommendations, said Kansas University professor Philip A. Schrodt, an expert in international conflict and U.S. defense policy.
Schrodt questioned the proposed timeline for some troop withdrawal in 2008, given the current state of the Iraqi military and government. There will be plenty of political pressure to do so - in no small part because of the Democratic landslide in the recent midterm elections - but that doesn't mean that time frame will actually benefit the region.
"That strikes me as pretty quick, considering where we are right now," Schrodt said of the 2008 time frame. "Obviously, we can do it. But the question is: What do we leave behind?"
For a positive answer to that question, the study group proposed drastic increases in the number of U.S. troops training and instructing their Iraqi counterparts over the next year or so.
In fact, the report never considered what KU professor Donald P. Haider-Markel called the "McCain option," adding more troops at least temporarily.
Haider-Markel, a public policy expert in the political science department, said the report instead focused on shifting more emphasis on accountability for the Iraqi government - lending some credibility to the idea that leaders there have been slow to take responsibility for their country.
Those tactical changes, Haider-Markel said, are something the Bush administration would likely embrace.
"I think it's quite likely they'll sign on to that part of the idea," he said.
But both Haider-Markel and Schrodt said the most crucial recommendations involves bringing Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, into the diplomatic fold to decrease pressure in the region.
"It's a way to back out of one of their biggest mistakes," Schrodt said, referring to the administration's past unwillingness to engage in talks with those states.
But engaging in those talks could be the most difficult recommendation for the administration to swallow, Haider-Markel said.
"They'll speak to it, but they haven't shown that they can even do any of that stuff," Haider-Markel said. "I'd be really surprised if that changed."