Debate Breaks Out in Media on Iraq Troop ‘Surge’

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Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday he would support a temporary troop increase in Iraq only if it were part of a broader strategy to bring combat forces home by early 2008.

”If the commanders on the ground said this is just for a short period of time, we’ll go along with that,” said Reid, D-Nev., citing a time frame such as two months to three months. But a period longer than that, such as 18 months to 24 months, would be unacceptable, he said.

”The American people will not allow this war to go on as it has. It simply is a war that will not be won militarily. It can only be won politically,” Reid said. ”We have to change course in Iraq.”

But President Bush’s former secretary of state, Colin Powell, said he was skeptical that any type of troop surge would be effective, noting that ultimately it is the Iraqis who must stand up and stop their growing sectarian violence.

?We are losing ? we haven?t lost ? and this is the time, now, to start to put in place the kinds of strategies that will turn this situation around,? General Powell said.

Bush is considering several options for a new strategy in Iraq, such as a proposal backed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., that would send tens of thousands of additional troops for an indefinite period to quickly secure Baghdad. There are about 134,000 U.S. troops in Iraq now.

That plan would run counter to recommendations by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which set a goal of withdrawing combat troops by early 2008 in support of more aggressive regional diplomacy.

Retired Gen. Jack Keane, a former Army vice chief of staff who is advising Bush to send an additional 30,000 to 40,000 U.S. troops, said it would take at least 1 1/2 years to secure Iraq.

”It’s impossible,” Keane said, responding to Reid’s suggestion that the troop surge be limited to two months to three months. ”It will take a couple of months just to get forces in,” he said.

But Colin Powell said, “Before I would add any additional troops or recommend it to a commander in chief, I’d want to make sure we have a clear understanding of what it is they’re going for, how long they’re going for.”

Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said there would be widespread opposition by members of his committee if Bush proposes a troop increase.

”We have to understand that there is absolute chaos that is taking place there. This country is falling apart,” Kennedy said.

Regarding a temporary troop surge, Kennedy said, ”I respect Harry Reid on it, but that’s not where I am.”

Reid and Keane spoke on ABC’s ”This Week,” Kennedy appeared on ”Fox News Sunday,” and Powell spoke on CBS’ ”Face the Nation.”

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