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Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Next chief wants to ‘redefine’ U.S. goals

January 31, 2007

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— It may be time to "redefine the goals" for Iraq, the admiral President Bush picked to lead U.S. forces in the Middle East told Congress on Tuesday as lawmakers of both parties maneuvered for leverage against Bush's proposed troop buildup.

Navy Adm. William Fallon, Bush's nominee to head the U.S. Central Command, told his Senate confirmation hearing the time for finding solutions in Iraq was running out.

"What we have been doing has not been working," he said. "We have got to be doing, it seems to me, something different." He did not say what might change under his command.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, just returned from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, told a news conference on Capitol Hill that her delegation saw no sign that U.S. efforts in Iraq were moving ahead with urgency.

"We went with the hope and expectation that what we would see in Iraq was some coordinated effort to have political solutions, to relieve the civil strife and violence there, and diplomatic efforts to bring stability to the region," she said. "We saw no evidence of either, sadly."

Bush's declaration last week that "I am the decision-maker" on issues of war also ran into resistance, this time from a prominent Republican. Bush has said he intends to push ahead with his plan to send an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq, regardless of any resolution the Senate may pass.

"I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said during a hearing on Congress' war powers. "The decider is a shared and joint responsibility."

There were about 132,000 U.S. troops in Iraq before the increase.

The question of how to try forcing an end to the war in Iraq, and under what conditions, is among the issues faced by the newly empowered Democratic majority in Congress, and some of the president's political allies as well.

James A. Baker III, secretary of state during Bush's father's administration, told a congressional hearing Tuesday that the White House should find a way to negotiate with Congress on troop additions.

"A majority of Congress is ready to vote against a surge" in troops, Baker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Baker was co-chairman of a bipartisan commission that recommended the administration pull out U.S. combat brigades by early 2008, launch new diplomatic initiatives with Iran and Syria, and vastly increase the number of U.S. military advisers in Iraq.

Fallon, whom Bush nominated to replace Army Gen. John Abizaid as head of Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was not yet sure how he would go about changing the approach in Iraq.

"One of the things in the back of my mind that I'd like to get answered is to meet with the people that have been working this issue - particularly our ambassadors, our diplomats - to get an assessment of what's realistic and what's practical," he said.

"And maybe we ought to redefine the goals here a bit and do something that's more realistic in terms of getting some progress and then maybe take on the other things later," he added without elaborating.

Democratic senators began probing Tuesday how Congress could halt Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq or even use their powers to halt the war altogether.

Perhaps the boldest challenge to the president's authority came from Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., who said he would introduce legislation today that would end all funding for the deployment of troops within six months after it is implemented, forcing an end to the war.

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