Boyda confident of gradual Iraq withdrawal

'It will happen because that's our only option'

Congresswoman Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., predicted Thursday morning that the wheels have been set in motion for a gradual withdrawal of U.S. military personnel from combat zones in Iraq.

“We’re going to redeploy the troops because we don’t have another option,” said Boyda, a member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. “Our troop strength for all intents and purposes is gone. Our equipment, we haven’t called up the industrial base, so we’re not even keeping up with re-setting of our equipment.”

Boyda answered questions on a variety of topics for about an hour in front of 100 people during a Lawrence Chamber of Commerce event at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H. She represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes western Lawrence, Leavenworth, Topeka and much of southeastern Kansas.

Since her campaign last year when she upset incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, Boyda has criticized the Bush administration’s management of the war. But she’s been criticized by anti-war protesters who say she hasn’t pushed hard enough for a faster resolution to the conflict.

She said the troop withdrawal would not “be anything that happens overnight.” If it happened too quickly, it would “destabilize the area even further,” she said.

The top American commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David Petraeus, also recently said U.S. forces need to be smaller by next summer. Congress is scheduled to get a report on Iraq in September.

Boyda said Democrats would stand up and insist on withdrawal.

“It will happen because that’s our only option,” she said. “We’re in a corner militarily, and then the Democrats are going to get blamed for the instability that it causes in the region. Mark my word on it.”

Boyda also criticized the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans on the specifics of the recent amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which passed earlier this month. Boyda voted against it because she said certain late changes to the bill did not include enough oversight and gave too much power to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

“You shouldn’t play politics with intelligence issues, and she’s certainly indicating that is what’s going on. It’s pretty unfortunate,” said Paul Davis, a Democratic Kansas House member and Lawrence attorney who attended Thursday’s session.