Sebelius says Iraq exit strategy needed

? Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday said she supports efforts in Congress to try to bring U.S. soldiers home from the war in Iraq.

“I definitely think that there needs to be a discussion about what our exit strategy is and when we implement that exit strategy,” Sebelius said.

As governor, she said, one of her concerns is that increased commitments of the Kansas National Guard and equipment in the war was putting Kansas residents at risk.

“Our ability to respond in an effective manner to floods, tornadoes, hailstorms, moving our citizens to safety and security, is really compromised,” she said. “Clearly it’s a huge homeland security concern,” she said.

Approximately 1,000 Kansas National Guard soldiers and airmen are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S.-Mexico border.

Democrats in Congress are pushing for a timeline to withdraw soldiers from Iraq, a measure that President Bush has promised to veto.

Bush is seeking to increase troop levels by another 28,000 soldiers by June, which will bring the total in Iraq to more than 170,000.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon ordered that soldiers assigned to Iraq will serve there for 15 months instead of the current 12 months.

The change will not affect National Guard and reserve soldiers who will continue to deploy for 12 months.

Republicans in the Kansas congressional delegation have stuck with Bush in opposing a timeline to bring troops back.

“Despite having concerns about the way the war has been conducted, I cannot support something I believe will undermine our soldiers and embolden our enemies,” said U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays.

But Sebelius, a Democrat, said, “The sort of never-ending story with additional troops being sent on a regular basis, additional guardsmen and women, additional equipment, does not seem to be working very well.”

U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Topeka, said after the Pentagon’s announcement of extended tours, “my phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from soldiers’ families. Caller after caller is concerned that their loved ones must now spend three more long months overseas and in harm’s way.”

Sebelius’ comments came after she signed into law a bill that seeks to restrict military funeral protests, which was prompted by the actions of the Rev. Fred Phelps, who has protested nationwide at the funerals of soldiers killed in combat.

In response to reporters’ questions about the war, Sebelius said, “I think the Congress is trying to insert themselves into this discussion and take a legal role that I think they have.”

Boyda, whose district includes west Lawrence and who voted for the timeline for withdrawal, agreed.

“No matter what you believed about America’s decision to go to war in Iraq, our country does not have the readiness or the troop strength to sustain combat without end. The current course is simply unsustainable. Now, in order to preserve our strategic readiness, we need to hold a real national discussion on how to responsibly redeploy our forces,” she said.