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“That’s exactly what they did yesterday,” Mr. Kerry said, adding that he decided to come to Mrs. Clinton’s aid after he saw what the Pentagon wrote to her.

But congressional Republicans saw it differently.

Senator Clinton’s expressed interest in developing a plan for withdrawal from Iraq can only serve to the detriment of our troops and their mission,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and his party’s top member on the House Armed Services Committee. “Her statements underscore the desire of congressional Democrats to begin a stampede of retreat from Iraq without giving the president’s newly implemented strategy the chance to succeed.”