Democrat leaders in Congress today quickly rebutted White House claims that the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq is a sign of progress, saying instead that it shows the president’s plan to send more troops is “misguided.”
“Why are thousands of additional American troops being sent to Iraq at the same time that British troops are planning to leave?” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced today that he will withdraw about 1,600 British troops from the southern Iraq city of Basra. Mr. Blair said he hopes to take the troops out by late summer, reducing the total British contingent to about 5,500 soldiers.
“What all of this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be. But it does mean that the next chapter in Basra’s history can be written by Iraqis,” Mr. Blair said, according to the Associated Press.
Denmark also announced that it would soon be withdrawing its small contingent of 460 soldiers.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said that “the British Government has acknowledged a reality that President Bush still stubbornly refuses to accept. There can be no purely military solution in Iraq.”
“Today’s news is further evidence that the Bush plan to escalate the war is misguided, and demonstrates once again why it was strongly rejected by bipartisan majorities of the House and Senate,” said Mr. Reid.
Mr. Bush plans to send most of the U.S. reinforcements to the capital city of Baghdad, with a few thousand Marines going to the Anbar province west of Baghdad, where Al Qaeda is considered an active element.
The House last week approved a resolution opposing President Bush’s plan to send around 27,000 more U.S. soldiers to Iraq, by a vote of 246-to-182.
In the Senate, Democrats failed to gain the 60 votes necessary to move forward on a similar resolution without any Republican amendments, and Mr. Reid has said he is “moving on” to other matters.
Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC News, during an interview in Tokyo today, that the withdrawal was “an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well.”
White House spokesman Tony Snow echoed that sentiment.
“The fact that they have made some progress on the ground is going to enable them to move some of the forces out, and that’s ultimately the kind of thing that we want to be able to see throughout Iraq,” Mr. Snow said at his daily press briefing.