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Archive for Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Troop discussions active on several fronts

June 21, 2006

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Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist declared Tuesday in Washington that "surrendering is not a solution" in Iraq as Democrats embraced a proposal to start troop withdrawals this year, setting up an election-year showdown in the GOP-controlled Senate.

"We cannot retreat. We cannot surrender. We cannot go wobbly. The price is far too high," said Frist, R-Tenn., suggesting that Democrats want to do just that.

Answering, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, disputed the GOP characterization of the Democrats' position and said: "We have to serve notice on the Iraqis that their future has to be in their own hands."

Democrats prepared to introduce a nonbinding resolution on Iraq that calls for redeployments to begin this year but does not set a firm deadline by which all forces must be out of the war zone. The Senate was expected to take up and vote on the resolution today.

The Senate also is to consider and vote on a separate proposal by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that would require the administration to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007. It's expected to fail overwhelmingly.

Soldiers, Marines called up

Also Tuesday, the Pentagon notified about 21,000 Army soldiers and Marines that they are scheduled to be sent to Iraq late this year as part of the latest deployment rotation.

Four major combat brigades from Texas, Alaska and Colorado are scheduled to replace troops returning home, the Pentagon said; thus, the announcement does not signal an increase in troop strength in Iraq.

The Pentagon said the planned assignments could change depending on the conditions in Baghdad.

Japan pulls troops

In Japan, defense chief Fukushiro Nukaga ordered the withdrawal of its ground troops to begin Tuesday. Tokyo made clear the pullout did not signal a break with Washington; Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the decision was made in consultation with the United States and other allies.

The 600 Japanese troops were sent to Iraq in 2004 on a strictly humanitarian, non-combat mission. They were assigned to a relatively peaceful part of the country and were largely confined to base.

There were no casualties among Japanese soldiers, but other Japanese citizens in Iraq were targeted by militants demanding the country withdraw its troops.

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